What to Do with a Broken Relationship

Relationships are beautiful, but slightly fragile things. We thrive when we’re in meaningful relationships with others, and that is how it should be. Our relationships are a major part of what allows us to flourish, and likewise, when our relationships are out of joint, we find that our life loses color. That’s when we need to learn what to do with a broken relationship.

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

It can take years to build a relationship with someone – a long-cherished friendship, an open and mutually supportive parent-child connection, or a solid and fulfilling marriage. However, the unfortunate reality is that what takes years to build can be undermined in a matter of mere moments.

Whether through a betrayal of trust, unkind words spoken in anger, or the failure to meet expectations, a relationship can end up facing serious challenges. Though sometimes the damage done is hard to repair, relationship challenges can often be overcome in healthy ways.

The older you get, the more you come to understand how precious relationships are, and their fragility as well. Broken relationships are a sad fact of life, but thankfully we aren’t left without options for what to do if things go south. Whether you are the one that has made a mistake that leaves a relationship in shambles, or you’re the one that is on the receiving end, here are a few things to consider about a broken relationship.

Recognize how brokenness is a part of life.

The world is a messy place. It’s not okay that it’s a messy place, but it’s just the reality. Part of the messiness of the world and ourselves is that our relationships are less than perfect, just as we are less than perfect. Disappointment and heartbreak are just some of the seasons we can expect in life (Ecclesiastes 3).

Sara Teasdale wrote, “It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.” The messiness and brokenness of our world hurt, and our hearts will be broken many times in our lifetime, but there is one small comfort in the face of all this – we can learn and grow even amid these painful experiences, and our hearts can become more resilient and wiser.

This means that broken relationships aren’t the end of us – they don’t close our doors to other opportunities, and they certainly aren’t a unique occurrence. While it can be devastating and hugely challenging to suffer from a broken relationship, we don’t have to be overwhelmed and entirely undone.

Try to find out what happened.

When a relationship breaks down, it may come as a complete surprise to you. Or, in some cases, perhaps you know or can make a good guess at what happened and how things fell apart in your relationship. Perhaps you can pinpoint the precise moment when things crumbled and the relationship was changed forever. While it may seem like dragging yourself through unnecessary pain – doing a post-mortem of your relationship can help you in several ways.

Taking time to discern what happened can help you in making a meaningful apology and in changing certain things if that’s what’s needed. For instance, If you betrayed your friend’s trust by telling someone else a secret, you can take several steps.

You may need to work through what you did, why you did it, and exercise empathy for the other person. These steps will help you understand on a deeper level what went wrong and how you find yourself in your present predicament. When you make your apology, all these things are elements to consider.

Knowing what may have gone wrong will alert you to things you should avoid in other relationships. We want to grow as people, and one way to do that is to learn through our own mistakes. Whether you’re the one responsible for the broken relationship or not, we can learn important lessons about ourselves and other people in the wake of a disruptive event in the relationship.

You may need to adjust expectations, communicate needs more clearly, or establish clearer boundaries with others. These are valuable ideas to ponder because they help us understand ourselves and our relationships better. Understanding why this particular relationship broke down can help you get back on track more securely, or it can help you better cultivate your other relationships.

While it’s important to understand what happened and how things fell apart, we must also recognize that understanding what happened does have its limits. In Mend my Broken Heart, Jocelyn Soriano wrote “Yes, I understand why things had to happen this way. I understand his reason for causing me pain. But mere understanding does not chase away the hurt. It does not call upon the sun when dark clouds have loomed over me. Let the rain come then if it must come! And let it wash away the dust that hurt my eyes!”

If you’re the one who has been betrayed and hurt, understanding what happened and why may be cold comfort. Sometimes, understanding helps us come to grips with our new reality, but it can only go so far.

Ask for forgiveness.

We all make mistakes. But we don’t all make the same mistakes in the same way, nor are we consistent in dealing with others the way we would want to be treated. This makes for messy relationships, self-righteousness attitudes, and often an unwillingness to change.

Asking for forgiveness is one important way to try and restore a broken relationship. When you acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, recognize how you’ve hurt the other person, and can clearly see ways of doing better in the future, that can create room to repair a broken relationship. An apology might not fix everything, but it’s a great starting point.

If trust was broken, it may be a long road to get back there again, if you can manage it. One of the ways an apology is powerful is that it lets the other person know that you’re on the same page about your behavior. They now know that you know that what you did was wrong, and for them that can be an important step in finding healing.

If you’re the one whose trust was violated, you can consider what your options are, including extending forgiveness to the person that hurt you. The Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). This verse is a powerful reminder of our own brokenness and need for forgiveness. It allows us to empathize with those who have sinned against us.

Forgiving the other person might not mean that things completely reset, but it does mean that you’re choosing to let go of any resentment or bitter feelings toward that person. It’s a way to begin the work of rebuilding the relationship, should you so choose.

Additionally, if you’re the one who was hurt, you might need to redraw or restate your boundaries with other people. Every healthy relationship requires healthy boundaries, and when one or more of those are violated, that situation can provide you with an opportunity to either restate or redraw those boundaries as needed.

Pick up the pieces.

You need to decide for yourself how the relationship is important to you and what you’re willing to do for it. True friendships, familial relationships, and other meaningful connections with others aren’t easy to find or replace, especially if they’ve been the work of years to cultivate.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t move on from these relationships if they are harmful, but it does mean we need to weigh carefully what we do with them. In some cases, walking away may be the best thing you can do, while in others working on things is what wisdom dictates.

Take time to heal and process what’s happened. Picking up the pieces of a broken relationship is hard work, whether you’re picking up those pieces to try and put them back together again, or you’re picking them up to set them aside.

Whether you’re the cause of the broken relationship or not, when a significant human connection falls apart, it hurts. If you need help processing a broken relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trustworthy individual such as a friend, family member, spiritual advisor, or trained Christian therapist.

Photos:
“Just Married”, Courtesy of Nikita Shirokov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Daisy from Below”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hope”, Courtesy of Ronak Valobobhai, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Bible”, Courtesy of Jessica Delp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Knowing the Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships take various forms, and they go through their own peaks and valleys, just as with the rest of life. In a marriage, for instance, the couple might move from the honeymoon phase and into a season of financial hardship that tests their ability to resolve conflict and problem-solve. Some couples will struggle with that, while others will deal with the conflict and difficult circumstances in a healthy manner.

Again, couples go through all sorts of things, and many healthy relationships will face challenges, sometimes with mixed results. However, the mark of healthy relationships is that they don’t remain in a state of conflict, nor do they endlessly repeat the same mistakes without learning or growing from them.

In other words, difficult seasons will come, but healthy relationships weather those storms through mutual respect, affection, good conflict management skills, and so on.

In other relationships, what’s lacking are these same hallmarks of a healthy relationship. These toxic relationships are a hotbed of simmering conflict – one or both partners are in constant fight or flight mode, and they are not happy or fulfilled. There can be toxic patterns in a relationship, but a toxic relationship is one in which those patterns are a feature, not a bug in the system. Below are a few signs to look out for that might point to your relationship as being toxic.

Emotional detachment in a toxic relationship.

In a healthy relationship, the partners are emotionally connected and vulnerable to one another. They share themselves, offer one another validation, and show that they care for each other in various ways. Emotional detachment can happen for a season, say for instance if one partner is in a time crunch at work. However, sharing one’s feelings with their partner is what makes for a healthy relationship. Emotional detachment can happen in various ways, including:

You don’t celebrate each other’s wins. In a healthy relationship, the couple supports one another and celebrates their respective wins. If the atmosphere in the relationship is one where your wins aren’t celebrated, and possibly where an air of competition reigns, that could be problematic.

Negative spontaneous emotional reactions. Your partner’s gut-level impressions of you, such as whether they like you or find you interesting, or whether they think you are competent, or how you might compare to other people – all these can point to the health of your relationship. A relationship dominated by spontaneous negative emotional reactions is a cause for concern.

Lack of self-disclosure. Relationship health is supported by emotional self-disclosure, where you are vulnerable with, listen to, and mutually support each other. Sharing your important feelings within the relationship matters, as does listening well and being responsive to such self-disclosures. If this interplay of sharing and listening well is absent from the relationship, it is cause for concern.

Few positive non-verbal behaviors. We speak with more than just our words. We can use touch, our faces, our bodies, and the tone of our voices to communicate alongside our words. A relational environment where there are few positive non-verbal behaviors such as smiles, laughter, hugging, etc., might point to an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

It’s also important to ask yourself if the dominant tone of your relationship is one of affirmation or criticism. Of course, we don’t always get things right, but if your spouse is constantly criticizing you – how you dress, how you look, speak, act, and so on, that’s not a healthy situation. Emotional detachment, if it becomes a habit, signals the deterioration of a relationship, and it needs to be addressed.

A lack of safety in a toxic relationship.

In a relationship, it’s important for you and your children to feel safe. Safety can be emotional or physical safety. With emotional safety, do you feel able to express your emotions without feeling judged or like you’re failing somehow? Do you feel like people care how you feel, and that your emotions are taken into consideration?

Physical safety can be compromised if you’re threatened with violence, or if resources such as food, clothing, health care, and shelter are held at ransom. Relationships marked by the lack of safety are likely toxic.

No boundaries or boundaries are repeatedly violated

Boundaries are important for the health of any relationship. Boundaries signal that each person has their own personality and needs, and respecting those boundaries shows consideration and promotes individual integrity. Boundaries can center around finances, privacy, use of time, friendships, sex, and much else.

If in your relationship you either don’t have boundaries or the boundaries you set are violated repeatedly, it may signal a toxic relationship. Each relationship needs boundaries to prevent it from slipping into codependency or other similar dysfunction, and when boundaries are violated, there need to be consequences. Repeated violations of reasonable boundaries display a fundamental lack of respect that needs to be remedied.

Constant cover-ups in a toxic relationship.

Spouses often cover for one another. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including not wanting them to look bad, or wanting to spare them from something uncomfortable or humiliating. There is a line between that and covering up bad behavior for them so that they escape accountability, or so that truth about them doesn’t get out.

If you find yourself often covering up for your partner because they were drunk, rude, physically, or verbally abusive, and so on, that points to a toxic relationship dynamic. You shouldn’t be part of their personal PR and cleanup crew, and covering up for them reveals unhealthy (possibly codependent) dynamics in the relationship.

Lack of freedom in a toxic relationship.

In a meaningful relationship with our significant other, we should feel the most accepted and loved within that space. When we are with our friends, these are supposed to be the people that get us, that understand our weirdness and welcome us, nonetheless. In our family, that space above others is where we ought to feel appreciated, loved for who we are, and feel that our best interests are high up on the agenda.

If you feel that you don’t have freedom in your relationship, it’s possibly problematic. Possibly problematic because sometimes we want more freedom than we ought to get, like a teenager wanting to stay out way beyond what their parent thinks is wise, or if a spouse wants the freedom to commit adultery.

Rather, the freedom in mind here relates to things like feeling the freedom to be yourself, to make mistakes, to be with people such as your friends and family. It’s a problem when you’re constantly criticized for being who you are, if any mistakes you make are closely scrutinized while those of others aren’t, or if you get isolated from people such as your family and friends.

You should be able to meet with your family and hang with your friends, but when your partner wants to isolate you, it’s a sign of toxicity and may be a prelude to other abusive behaviors.

A lack of mutuality in a toxic relationship.

At the heart of a relationship is what you do for each other. You celebrate one another; you are there for one another during your tough times; you rebuke one another when there is a need for it, you forgive each other for mistakes that you make, you take on responsibilities to help one another flourish, and you each make compromises for the sake of the other.

If you find yourself in a situation where this is flowing in one direction, that could be a sign of a toxic relationship. A lack of mutuality in a relationship is a cause for concern that you should take seriously. There ought to be a healthy give and take within the relationship, and while things are never balanced equally, there should be some level of reciprocity in how you do things in your relationship.

It cannot be that only one person constantly needs to be forgiven, that one person is the one who makes the compromises, or that only one person needs rebuke. A relationship is the coming together of equals, and that means each of you must receive dignity, respect, and consideration.

Conclusion

If you detect these signs of toxicity in your relationship, having a conversation with your partner about them can help you begin addressing the issue. With the help of a couple’s therapist, you can turn a toxic relationship around, but it needs you both to show up and put in the work.

Photos:
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Shelby Deeter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugs”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “I give you my heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

4 Steps to Healthy Weight Management

Most people desire to make changes to their health and usually begin with wanting to lose weight. They have a vision and a goal number they want to see on the scale so they set goals and action steps to reach this weight loss.

Often, however, many individuals may reach their goals but then find that the weight loss doesn’t last. Or, they may not know the exact steps that are required for them to reach their weight loss goals. Instead, they find themselves on a rollercoaster without consistency. What is the missing piece?

Having healthy weight management.

If you’re thinking about making changes to maintaining your weight, it can be a difficult road to find what is best for you, your body, and your lifestyle. The majority of our thoughts are centered around the foods we choose and how much we exercise. While this is true, there are missing components to successfully find balance and ease with being able to maintain healthy stability.

Having a healthy weight management goal instead of a weight loss goal may just be the perspective shift you have been looking for all along! When you focus on what healthy weight management looks like for you, you can be set free from needing to try different diets or setting a goal weight because you begin to understand what is right for your body naturally.

In this article, you are going to learn four steps to find and successfully implement lasting healthy weight management.

Step One: Understanding your digestive health

Your digestive health is the first place you need to look when it comes to your ability to manage a healthy weight. In the context of weight management, the amount of stress you are dealing with, the number of inflammatory foods you are consuming, and the overall health of your gut are paramount and also work in tandem.

Your digestion begins before actually eating food as it relates to external factors like stress and anxiety that unknowingly greatly affect how your foods are digested. Additionally, if your diet consists of food high in sugar or processed, your gut lining and proper functions of your digestion will be impaired due to the constant state of inflammation.

This is what can cause unhealthy cravings or addiction to sugary foods. When you learn to choose the right foods that are anti-inflammatory and eat for your digestion, you’ll immediately see improvements and see your body remarkably adapt to its natural healthy state.

Step Two: Define what is healthy management

As above-mentioned, focusing on setting a healthy weight management goal instead of a weight loss goal will help you in the long run. Every day we are bombarded with advertisements, promotions, and sales for healthy foods, products, supplements, and diets. Through social media channels, magazines with headlines on the front cover, or even if you ask Google what is healthy management, it’s very noisy!

What happens is that all of the images, phrases, diets, and advertisements that we see, subconsciously begin to build the wrong impression of what is right and true for your health. It becomes easier to focus on all of the things you “should” be doing instead of learning, knowing, and understanding what is right for you and your body. The key factor is to read between the lines and find what you need for your health.

How do you do this?

The answer is to set a goal for success. Before you begin a new health journey, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What does my desired weight management look like?
  2. How will I know when I am successfully managing my health?
  3. What is my desired look, feel, and lifestyle?
  4. Why am I choosing to focus on maintaining my weight?

When you take the time to ask yourself these four questions, you are setting yourself up for success before you even begin. What happens is that most individuals want to choose better foods, make changes to their eating and exercise habits, and immediately jump into the new diet that everyone is speaking about, such as the one that promised instant results that you read about on the magazine cover while waiting in line at the grocery.

So because this is all the craze, many people rush into then buying those suggested ingredients, supplements, or diet plans without truly preparing for the course that aligns with long-term sustainability.

Maintaining a healthy weight goes beyond the food choices and amounts of exercise because it has everything to do with your reasons, definitions, and lifestyle. If you never measure what success in this area means to you, how will you know when you have reached it?

If you do a personal inventory, you may already be maintaining your weight from a goal you set years ago, but without knowing what it looked like back then, it’s easy to want to keep doing new things because without realizing that you already met your initial goal.

When you consider what asking yourself these four questions means to you, you will start to see the connection between the how, what, why, and your will. These four questions are pivotal in helping you set your vision and determine what steps are needed to help you reach your goals. Coupled with a better understanding of your digestive health, you’ll be empowered to choose the right foods for long-term health rather than short-term satisfaction.

Step Three: Find an activity you love to do

One of the largest areas where people “fall off the wagon” is not loving what they were committed to doing, especially in the area of exercise. Most people end up feeling less motivated because it resembles a chore that interrupts their day and must be done. When you find an activity you love to do, your inspiration is automatic and you end up excited about it, becoming naturally committed.

When it comes to exercise, try an activity that is something new and different. Notice the change in words from exercise to activity. Placing your focus on a daily activity also changes your perspective from it feeling like a chore. Make small commitments then increase your frequency over time. When trying a new activity and you realize you don’t like that one you picked, try something new. Exercise does not have to be hours on a treadmill or doing squats.

Finding new trails in nature with gorgeous views. You can even try switching up the times you decide to commit to your activity and couple it with a benefit, much like going on a walk to go watch the sun rise or set. Consider trying a new sport and joining a league like rowing, softball, or volleyball. Sometimes when you reflect on a sport you used to play when you were young, you may find you are inspired to pick it back up as an adult. What is on your list to try?

Step Four: Fight those negative thoughts

Another contributing factor to why it is difficult to maintain a healthy weight is because we let our thoughts and words defeat us. Sometimes when it comes to not seeing progress as soon as one thought would happen allows an open door for negativity, frustration, and setbacks to enter in.

When you act upon the four questions you attached to your goal (hint: see step two), you end up staying committed to the lifestyle goal you are seeking instead of the feelings when you let negativity lead.

With that said, when you surrender your health to God’s power, you can maintain anything when you rely upon His strength. Another encouragement is to study Scriptures that reflect your goals and partner with the Holy Spirit to pour out His ability for you to stay committed to your health management goals.

If you are looking to take these four steps in a practical way, consider coaching. When you work with a coach, you get to discover and design your goals through a series of questions to help you get clear on your vision and steps. Not only do you get to make a step-by-step plan with a coach, but you also get to work alongside them as they help guide you through each step to make sure you are on track to reaching your goals and that you stay in line with your vision.

Contact me today if this article resonated with you and if you want to explore the benefits of coaching when it comes to maintaining your healthy weight.

Photos:
“Weighing out the Beans”, Courtesy of Tyler Nix, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fruit Breakfast”, Courtesy of Jannis Brandt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watermelon Smile”, Courtesy of Caju Gomes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Planning”, Courtesy of KOBU Agency, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Finding Hope in the Midst of Darkness

Depression as a Christian seems contradictory since the Bible promises us peace and joy. Peace and joy are very different feelings when compared to a depressed mood. We can have peace in our hearts about the future and our current situation. We can have the joy of the Lord through our salvation. However, our mood may tell us that we are sad even though there is no identifiable reason to be sad.

This is where I like to implement distractions. I may know in my mind that there is nothing to be sad about. I may have a wonderful life, a great spouse, successful children who are walking with the Lord, but I still don’t feel good, and I lack the desire to participate in things I once found interesting. The enemy tries to discourage a person and pressure them to feel guilty about these feelings. Naturally, we tend to look inward for the reason.

The goal is to immediately use Scripture to fight those automatic negative thoughts (fiery darts) that the enemy shoots into our minds. Find certain Scriptures that speak to you in the specific area in which you are struggling. Write these down on a small piece of paper to carry with you until you memorize them.

Do not allow these darts to enter your long-term memory. Short-term memory is anything under thirty seconds. If you rehearse something, a telephone number, a name, a time, or a phrase using certain rehearsal techniques they will convert to long-term memory. The trick here is to get to those fiery darts immediately with Scripture you have previously memorized.

Repeat God’s word to yourself and get his promises into your long-term memory. Carry your Bible around with you wherever you go. Put it in your purse, carry a small Gideon’s Bible in your back pocket so you can get used to using your sword. Keep seeking, keep knocking. Don’t grow weary.

Another reason we may continue to be affected by feelings of sadness is that we may have conditioned ourselves to be in this state. People find it comfortable to sit in darkness, wallowing in self-defeating thoughts. Though it’s not necessarily a desire to feel depressed, we may experience a physiological response (physical response throughout the body) to a depressed mood.

When we feel tired, we prefer to lay in bed to get some additional sleep. We feel hungry so we find something to nourish our bodies. Working through depression feels unnatural because our emotions or our bodies may prompt us to do things that will keep us remaining depressed:

  • Loss of interest
  • Excessive sleep
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive Guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

Depression has many faces and many different presentations, and the sufferer may experience a variety of symptoms. As Christians, we may think that the Lord would relieve us from these feelings if we were in His good graces. This is false. There are instances where we may be experiencing guilt, shame, sad mood, and difficulty sleeping due to unconfessed sin. If we continue to live in a specific sin, the Holy Spirit will convict us and prompt us in this way.

Do not mistake this for condemnation, however. Christ sent his Holy Spirit to us to encourage us and to convict us of sin. Conviction is meant to prompt us to repent, not to condemn us. The Bible says that His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Out of love, we turn back to Christ knowing that his plans for our lives are far better than our own.

The enemy has effective methods of making us feel as though we will never measure up, leading us to feel beaten down by the world and our sin. Don’t grow weary of doing good, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).”

A thorn is a struggle or an ailment that the Lord has not freed us from so that He may be glorified through us. This is not to be confused with a stronghold. A stronghold stems from a certain sin we continuously fall into (i.e., binge-eating, sexual sin, continuous anger outbursts, slander/gossip, pride, lying, or substance use.)

Jacob experienced a thorn following his wrestling with God. Paul had a thorn that he was forced to live with, the nature of which the Bible does not reveal (however, many Biblical scholars think it may have had something to do with his eyes). A thorn may also be the loss of a child, the death of a spouse at a young age, a physical ailment, cancer, and even mental illness. The propensity to experience depression may also be a thorn.

It may keep us clinging to Jesus, running back to Him for continual support because we realize that during periods of intense depression, He is the only way we can make it through the day. Ultimately, Jesus wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to spend time in His word and rely on Him.

This does not mean that the Lord is devious and crafty, but He permits these ailments so that we will cling to Him. We live in a fallen world and as fallen creatures we do not fully understand His methods. We may not know why He would allow a young child to die prematurely, but we trust in His essential goodness and love. We constantly fight a spiritual battle with an enemy who is much smarter than we are, so we reach to Jesus to guide and strengthen us moment by moment during times of depression.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-18

One biblical truth you can hold fast to is that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t lose faith or become discouraged when the storm rages between your ears. Cling to the hope that though you may be sitting in darkness, the Lord is your light (Micah 7:7b).

If you are in grip of mental health difficulties such as these depressive symptoms and would like to speak with someone to help identify the problem in a more clear and identifiable way, please reach out to a counselor for guidance and encouragement. We have a team of mental health professionals that will provide a hand to help you walk through your spiritual wilderness. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Photos:
“A Walk in the Woods”, Courtesy of Geran de Klerk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Skeleton Keys on Book”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Victory!”, Courtesy of Svyatoslav Romanov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

You are here because you want to save your marriage? Good for you! We are proud that you are not giving up so easily as many others do. The divorce rate is steadily increasing to 60% in many parts of the U.S. and sadly those are the ones that are being reported.

For example, my wife’s parents want a divorce, but they can’t afford it, so they have just agreed to separate. Their hearts, though, are divorced. There are many couples like that and despite the sad reality, we offer you a fresh way to look at your marriage in hopes to help you retake back that amazing relationship that God destined you to have!

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

There are three C’s that we will be covering today: Compatibility, Compromising, and the most powerful one, Complimentary. These three stages of relationship maturity can help put some perspective to see where you are at in your marriage to see what is next for us to move on.

Sometimes having perspective can guide you in a gentle practical way that disarms both partners instead of having to make one of you the villain and the other the hero. My perspective has always been not to make one person the terrible monster but to understand the other person’s upbringing and what has transpired throughout the relationship that has aided both partners to be who they are today.

If there has been infidelity or betrayal, we don’t excuse that behavior by looking away. We confront it and deal with it so that there can be a resolution between both spouses, where appropriate. The 3 C’s are designed to help the partners in a relationship start a dialogue that will show them how they can move together to the next step.

Compatibility

Compatibility is a nice start to any relationship because it’s about sharing common interests. I’m sure both you and your partner were mutually attracted to each other. You both shared great moments that bonded you together.

Many couples love hiking, dancing, watching movies together, traveling, working on projects, they love pets, they have strong academic values, they want kids, they don’t want kids, etc. They have a common sharing that defines who they are that joins them together.

The riff between compatible people is when the sharing runs out. One spouse may like sports and that spouse may choose to watch ESPN instead of going on a date with their partner. That can cause tensions that turn into arguments. That same couple will then argue because the same spouse who loves watching sports may now want sexual intimacy but the spouse who was neglected will feel distant and say that they are tired.

By now I’m sure you see that these issues can slowly begin to turn a marriage into a rusty and withered relationship. How can compatibility save your marriage? This can save your marriage because you can talk to your spouse about how both of you had a great start but how you need to move forward. The start needs to be celebrated. Reflect on the enjoyable times you had together which will help you both to bond again.

It’s hard to stay angry when both of you reminisce about awesome times that both of you had. This can disarm the angriest of spouses and turn their cynicism to hope. Compatibility is not the complete answer, however, because no couple on this planet relies only on compatibility.

There will always need to be a sacrifice made to support the other spouse. Unfortunately, many couples end their relationship right at this step and don’t move beyond because the differences separate them to the point of no return. The good news is that it doesn’t have to end here and that it can mature and move on.

Compromising

We need to humble ourselves sometimes with big decisions so that as a couple we can mutually benefit. This is a noble perspective and helpful for compatible couples to understand. My wife and I use to argue about our dates which ended up ruining some of our Saturday nights. We made a pact to alternate our dates by giving each other two dates per month for us to coordinate.

When it was my turn, I would love to go to an open mall, eat some spicy food and then go see an action movie. Not the most romantic I know. When it was my wife’s turn, we would go to the beach and then eat dinner at sunset which was definitely romantic. We were able to learn about each other and appreciate how the other loved to have fun.

We learned to compromise which helped us to grow in our relationship before it got stale. Maybe your relationship is stale at this point, and it needs some saving. Most couples may be at this stage, which is a great step to be on, however, sometimes there are betrayals and hurts during this stage and we must compromise to make the marriage work. Many couples are in this stage because they have been dating and been married for years.

If you have suffered pain because of your spouse or both of you are in deep stuff my heart goes out to you. I want you to feel validated and supported by this article which may spark a talk between you and your partner to talk about this stage. You can talk about how you have compromised in certain areas in your relationship which can then uplift the marriage in its strengths.

A positive tone will help a lot with communication because it can win someone over. The main issue with the stage of compromise is that it can take you far but not all the way. It’s great to compromise however, one spouse may get burned out if they don’t have the constant refreshment.

Hebrews 3:12-13 says that our hearts need daily encouragement to remain soft. If we aren’t open and don’t encourage one another then it will take only a day to harden our hearts. Compromising also begs the spouse who is constantly sacrificing to request love in return. I sure feel that way when I sacrifice for my wife. If I help her with the home or take care of the car, I can expect favors in return.

However, she may not be so ready to return that love the way that I expect. I confess that it hurts, and I feel resentment in my heart, so I become quiet and resistant. It happens the other way around too. My wife may help me out with m projects or take care of responsibilities in the home and then she can expect me to be grateful for her efforts. Sometimes I don’t notice which hurts her and I let her down. Compromising is a great stage to be in, but it won’t be the stage to save your marriage.

Complimentary

I don’t mean complimentary as in saying compliments to your spouse. All though I highly recommend that you verbally compliment your partner to lift them up. I can testify that verbally complimenting my wife has helped our marriage so much. My wife feels acknowledged and honored in our home. You can never go wrong with that.

However, the real meaning of being a complimentary couple is being a couple who helps elevate each other. This perspective and lifestyle will save your marriage. It takes both of you, no matter the past or present, to get this right on point. One spouse trying this out may not get it done but it’s a start.

After a few weeks if you don’t see a change in your spouse please reach out for help. Therapy, couples’ groups, church retreats, classes, training, support groups, group dates, being ministered by a shepherding couple in your church, all these things can help support you and your spouse.

Before I get derailed, let’s go back to what a complimentary couple looks like. That couple is first willing to help and initiate help. This is a stark contrast to Compromising (the second of the 3 C’s), because with Compromising you must sacrifice. Most times, when we sacrifice, we aren’t willing. We sacrifice out of nobility or necessity. We may be talked into it or discipled into it. It’s not from our willing hearts.

Most of us sacrifice begrudgingly and hope for the best. With this last C, the Compromising couple serves and helps each other so that the couple is elevated. They are thinking “How can I help my spouse so both of us succeed?” This is an amazing perspective because both partners will feel inspired by the other to the point where both are going to try to outgive themselves in a healthy way.

Think about that vision for a moment. Both spouses work together to help elevate each other. What kind of marriage do you think they’ll have? It won’t be just a surviving marriage; it will be a thriving marriage! This is the secret to saving your marriage. Both of you must sit down, most likely with another couple, and process this vision to help both learn to inspire each other. This cannot be done alone. Both partners must work together so both of you can prosper.

Remember that none of these stages are bad. They are all good. The point of this article is to prepare you to have a fruitful discussion with your spouse about where both of you are. You may be tempted to think that both of you are in different stages. Please remember that it’s both of you together. So, both of you would be in the same stage.

Maybe one of you is ready to move on, but I strongly encourage that spouse to slow down and wait for the other spouse to catch up before moving on. This way doing the stages together will help the other spouse feel loved by you and ready to move forward. Once you identify which stage you are in then you will be ready to discuss how to take the appropriate steps for the next one.

The process of the 3 C’s will help disarm both of you and help ensure that you are taking the same steps onward as a couple. Have another couple walk with you in this way so that you have accountability and support if there are any riffs between you. My deepest conviction is that if you give the 3 C’s a try, it can show you where you are and help you see where you want to go. And that’s to be the best marriage you can be!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.Ephesians 5:21-33

Christian Marriage Counseling

If you’re looking for additional support, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory to schedule an appointment. It would be my pleasure to meet with you to help you not only save your marriage, but to strengthen it beyond what you’ve experienced before.

Photos:
“Coffee and Conversation”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Eye to Eye”, Courtesy of Andriyko Podilnyk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Devotions”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kissing”, Courtesy of Mauricio Livio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Porn: The World’s Most Powerful Addiction

Many people are praying to God, “HELP ME!” They are screaming inside of themselves for help with their addiction to pornography. Porn is the number one addiction in the world, way more than any drug or vice known to man. It does not take much research to learn that this industry is making hundreds of billions of dollars around the world.

Cell phones and the internet have made it easy for anyone to make a few clicks and be instantly connected with someone else. Pornography also has different channels of enticing many others, for example: collect calls with random call girls, strip clubs, movies, magazines, TikTok, apps, games, etc. Porn is not just on the internet, it is everywhere.

Unfortunately, this industry takes no prisoners and makes a fortune while at it. The porn industry is ruining marriages, getting professionals fired, hurting families’ finances, and destroying people’s faith. To discover what can we do about it we must understand why it is so powerful.

First, it involves other people. The truest form of intimacy is to be completely naked with someone else and spend time with them. Being naked with someone is the greatest form of invitation to connect with them and it produces chemicals in our bodies that create an emotional high.

In Genesis 2:15 the Bible reads “it is not good for man to be alone.” God tells us that we are designed to connect with others. God gave us social relationships to bond. He also gave us families to live with and create beautiful memories in the home. Marriage is, without a doubt, the most intimate relationship in the physical world.

Marriage is a bond where you know your spouse’s greatest strengths but also can see them in their most vulnerable state. That is why many want to be married because they want to cherish those moments with that special someone. Unfortunately, we at times can rely on vices to try to give us this “fix” to somehow replace that type of intimacy.

This is why porn is so addictive. It’s not like a substance with which you don’t have an emotional bond with. If your substance is spilled or broken, you may get mad, but you just go ahead and buy some more. But the emotional bond that you can get with seeing someone else naked and in a vulnerable sex position is bizarrely bonding.

I can speak from a man’s point of view that men who are addicted to porn have a tough time bonding with anyone. While they spend hours involved in their vice, they do not realize that they are losing connection with others.

So, what can we do? Connect with the same gender consistently and constantly. In 2 Samuel 11, you will read the story of King David who took time off from his busy military campaign. He sent his army to go off to battle while he remained in the palace all alone. We know from Genesis that it’s not good for man to be alone.

So having idle time, he goes out wandering and notices a beautiful woman bathing. She is naked and David is struck by that vulnerable connection. What King David should’ve done is go back inside his home and be sexually intimate with Abigail, his wife. They were married in 1 Samuel 25. It’s a wonderful and beautiful love story.

But David is not content over the many years of battle. He is worn down and tired. No one can blame him for taking some time off. However, this move by David was selfish because not only did he have wives, but he also had many concubines. 2 Samuel 5:13 tells us that David had both concubines and wives who bore him sons and daughters. This man was having lots of sex.

Why did he want to sleep with Bathsheba? A conqueror always wants to conquer more – they are never satisfied. They could be satisfied with God, their family, and themselves. But when we are giving ourselves over to our vices, we are communicating that we are unsatisfied. We think we are incomplete – not whole.

David was not completely satisfied. His greed wanted more. This mirrors greatly how individuals get addicted to porn. Fifteen minutes leads to one hour. One hour is not enough and that ends up to multiple hours. Then it turns into an entire day and then sadly to a lifetime. Why do you think people can’t just give it up?

The real reason is that the mind has been trained to be reliant on false images in an emotional way. Emotions are fire and they guide us so powerfully. A nation can change by having empathy for one incident. A nation can go into war because they learned of something that triggered the government.

I once saw a movie called Equilibrium that whose premise was if we had no emotions then there would be no more wars and murder. Maybe so. But who wants to live an emotionless life? Nobody. We all want to be free to live our lives as we want. However, emotions can lead us astray and we must break that cycle.

I mentioned in the earlier two paragraphs that getting help from the same gender is key. In 2 Samuel 12, God sends Nathan, a prophet, to correct David’s way of thinking. Why not send a woman? Or a family member? Remember that David involved his “secret service” and his main generals so who would stand up to this mighty King? A man of God. That’s who.

A man of God will help another man become a man of God. This is key in many support groups dealing with addiction because you can’t have a mixed-gender group talking about porn addiction. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Men wouldn’t feel comfortable describing their fetishes with another woman when an actual woman is staring right at them.

It wouldn’t work. So, a man would need another man to listen, confirm and challenge him as part of his sobriety plan. Same for a woman though. A woman shouldn’t be open to a man about her struggles watching porn online. It wouldn’t be a productive talk. A woman may be best suited to talk to another woman to get help. Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful for spouses to support each other in their struggles. But it’s best to leave the heavy lifting to the same gender.

Same-gender help is crucial. David would only have listened to a man who had deeper convictions than him. Earlier in King David’s life, he had such a friend by the name of Jonathan. Jonathan and David had many adventures together as they were more than brothers. The bond these men had was unbreakable only by death. Sadly, Jonathan is killed in battle and David mourns for him.

In 2 Samuel 1:25-26 David states “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother, you were very dear to me, your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women”. You see that David’s heart is real and open about how close these men were. They were born in battle. The wars and adventures they fought there together helped them respect each other to a point where their bond was so tight that no one could interfere.

Just like David we are all capable of having such deep and rich friendships. It takes a lot of work. It’s not easy to be in battles day in and day out. However, if we decide to join in battle with one another then we can help each other have victories.

What great battle is there like the war with porn addiction? It’s a beast. Humiliating, depressing, sad, and hopeless. Therefore, we need those Jonathans in our lives to help us grieve, process, and seek help to overcome our issues. We cannot overcome porn addiction on its own. We need help and not just any help, but the help from someone who is the same gender that is willing to keep us accountable.

This is challenging because we don’t want to be called to a different standard, so we want to keep those defenses up. However, in my many years as a professional, and can only tell you that the secret to the success of many leaving this addiction behind is simply getting constant and consistent training from someone who has deep convictions on this issue.

Don’t expect to get much help from someone who is struggling with the same thing. They can be an encouragement and support, but the true catalyst will be the one with deep conviction because they’ve proved themselves capable of staying sober. We need to learn from them and follow in their footsteps. That is the way we are going to get out of this pit.

My question to you is, who is your Jonathan in your life? Maybe you’re not the one who’s addicted but you want to help. Are you someone that can help others? If so, set up a support group and invite people to learn. Please feel free to use this as a launching pad to start helping others who are enslaved to this vice.

If you are looking for someone else, find out if there’s a group, a minister, or a mentor who can help your friend out. This issue is not only for men. My wife, who helps counsel and mentor women, has told me that women are falling into this trap as well. My wife doesn’t tell me specifics or mentions names of course but she tells me that she is shocked to learn that many women are also dealing with this.

According to Psychology Today, statistics say that about 45% of women watch pornography with their partner and about 35% percent on their own. The thing with watching porn once though is that with or without a partner, the craving continues, and once is not enough. It is spiritual cancer that destroys men’s and women’s lives all over the world. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it can be overcome with help – help in form of the same-gender partnering with those people to have victories in their lives. Let’s not look down on men because that won’t help. Let’s also not look down on women for struggling.

Let’s help one another to get to the root of the issue, which is accountability. We need best friends to talk to and be open. That’s the definition of true intimacy. We want to know and be known, so let’s practice it and marvel at the changes we see in their lives. Then they will see no need for fake intimacy when they can experience the real thing. God Bless!

Photos:
“Anguish”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laptop”, Courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Weighed Down”, Courtesy of Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Romantic Sunset”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Mental Warfare: How to Overcome Psychological Trauma

Bad things happen to good people all the time. Sadly, it seems like in today’s age this is happening more and more often. Has anyone told you that you are a good person lately? Please be assured that you are. The fact that you are reading this piece is because you are trying to battle the mental warfare of psychological trauma.

I can hear you on the other side asking, “Why me?” and “Why am I experiencing this?” And I’m with you on this one. Why you? No one deserves to be mistreated or abused in any way, especially mentally.

You were created to be in God’s image according to Genesis 1:26-28. Think about how we would describe God…Powerful? All-knowing? Loving? These are some of the first attributes that come to mind when would describe him. Well, if we are made in His image, shouldn’t we show similar characteristics?

You may respond “But I’m not God” and that’s true. None of us are God. We are however made in God’s image. If the Scriptures are still true, then we all must look in the mirror and wonder why we sell ourselves short. This is the truth, but we entertain the lies more often. That’s the true challenge in my honest opinion.

The biggest challenge for us is to reframe our thinking so that we don’t believe those distorted thoughts. There’s an incredible passage in Romans 12:2 “we are transformed by renewing our minds”. It blows my mind that we can alter our thinking! Yes, you can alter the way you think which will then change you from the inside out. For us to change our thinking we must do some work and train ourselves so that we can have a renewed focus.

Jesus went through a traumatic experience in his life, and it was recorded in Matthew 14. In the middle of this gospel, his cousin, John the Baptist is tragically beheaded by an evil ruler at the time: “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.” In verse 13, the Scripture says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

The verse says that Jesus takes time to be alone and the verse stops right there. I love that the Bible leaves it to our imagination on what happened. Take time to read that verse and put yourself in his shoes. What would you be doing? The Bible doesn’t make it easy for us to read what Jesus did, but the word of God allows us to ponder what he may have been doing.

If you didn’t catch it, the word is reframing our mind right there. God wants us to think. I don’t like thinking too much myself, but I know that this mental warfare is a real thing. It’s easier for us to veg out in front of the television. It’s simple to move on to the next thing and try to forget our past hurt.

But we need to see the example of Jesus and how he took the time to think. Reframing our mindset will help us to change our pattern of thinking into a healthier approach to life. That’s the decision we must make today – the decision to reframe the way we think.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. We continue reading on in Matthew 14:15 that after his time of mourning and praying, Jesus meets with a crowd and he is moved to compassion when he sees the needs of the people. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

The word “compassion” in Greek means for your “innermost part to be moved”. Though Jesus is sad about losing a loved one, in one night He pulls himself together enough to start helping others the next day. He didn’t take a shortcut nor was he absent from feeling pain. Jesus suffered and knew how to deal with it. He took the night to pray, process, and grieve.

He did not stop there though. Many others would have but not him. He allowed his heart and mind to start thinking about others and how he could help. Have you ever heard of the phrase “Hurt people, hurt people”? I’m here to tell you that Jesus’ case, “hurt people, help people.”

This compassion started on the inside and was a catalyst for Jesus to help others. This empowerment helped Jesus overcome his grief. I don’t think it resolved everything for Jesus at that time, but it was enough for him to get through the day.

Let’s shift the focus to you. How are you doing with your thought patterns? Are you feeling overwhelmed and faint with hopelessness? People have indeed hurt us, and we need to process that. So, the question remains, who are we talking to? How are we going to get help? Are we going to remain in this rut or are we going to do something about it?

It’s time for us to take back our minds and not lend them to these negative thoughts from our past to control us. Some forms of psychological trauma include verbal abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, racism, etc. These leave an imprint in our minds that is hard to forget.

There are many more, but these are some that stand out in 2021. Some may more emotional than others, and others may be more physical than others. Whether something physical happened or not is not the point. The point is that if it degrades our minds, then you can bet it is probably a form of psychological trauma that has shaped our brains.

Our minds are so powerful that if you think long and hard enough you may be able to convince your body to the point of having somatic symptoms. These symptoms will break your body down. Instead of using it to break us down, let us use our minds to build us up as we move forward. Our minds can fight these demons away so that we can be free.

Jesus was no stranger to mental suffering. He was accused and abused by those who hated him, but his mind was free to the point that it helped him overcome all those obstacles. Jesus set an example of how to deal with mental and emotional pain. He wasn’t physically suffering but he suffered for the loss he had. We must act and take small steps so that we can also succeed.

In the rest of chapter 14 in the gospel of Matthew, we see three examples of something important to which we should pay attention. Jesus feeds 5,000 families with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He then works with Peter to walk on water which must’ve been a remarkable sight. Peter doesn’t last long on the water but before he falls Jesus states that he had little faith.

The fact that Peter walked on water with little faith is something mind-blowing to me because I would think you would need a stratosphere type of faith. Not so with Jesus, however. Even when we doubt and take some steps, he can make us “walk on water.” Lastly, when Jesus lands at his next destination, many people approach him and touch the edge of his cloak to get healed.

What surprises me is that the people didn’t have to even touch him physically! They didn’t have to hold his hand; they didn’t need to hug him or have him touch their foreheads to show some form of connection. They must’ve had so much reverence for him that in those times that wasn’t considered permissible – perhaps because it would’ve been disrespectful.

Even so, many barely grabbed a part of his cloak and were healed because of their small faith. I’m sure by now you can figure it out. The constant denominator in these three examples is that we only need to have small faith for God to work. Many times, we feel we need to be perfectly healed to live life, or that we must “get over” something to function.

The way I read it, this seems contrary to widely held belief. Jesus was hurt and was able to serve others despite his mental and emotional pain. We can do the same. Despite the hurt, we can help others. What small step of faith can you take today? We can call someone and ask for help. We can start journaling. We can set up a therapy appointment. We can go to the beach to pray.

We don’t have to do something enormous. We don’t need to recover before helping even fully someone else out. Do you think Jesus was one hundred percent resolved after his cousin was murdered? I don’t think so. But what he did was profound. He was able to serve as he was healing himself. Your faith doesn’t have to something astronomical. It doesn’t have to be out of this world. It can be something small.

If we do a tiny bit every day, we can take major leaps in our lives. This is how you and I can overcome our mental warfare. We can overcome our psychological trauma. We see the example of Jesus and it makes sense! So, if it’s good enough for Jesus then it should be good enough for us. Decide to something small today and get help. You will be victorious. I leave you with this Scripture to inspire you:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:4-9

Christian Counseling for Psychological Trauma

If you would like additional help and support regarding how to overcome psychological trauma, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment. It would be my honor to serve you in this capacity.

Photos:
“Caged”, Courtesy of Christopher Windus, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Drowning”, Courtesy of Nikko Macaspac, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Disequilibrium”, Courtesy of Joshua Fuller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking Down the Road”, Courtesy of Emma Simpson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Help! My Husband is a Sex Addict

If you suspect that your husband is a sex addict, you have come to the right place to get some guidance. If he watches porn on the internet and uses his phone to look at inappropriate pictures of other women, you may be wondering whether there is hope. The good news is that there is — and not just any hope, but the hope of God.

Recall your wedding day. Remember both of you standing on the altar and looking into his eyes as he was saying to you that he would be faithful and loving until the day he dies. I am sure at this moment you don’t feel that at all and that is okay. This article is not to persuade you about your valid emotions.

This article is written to help you understand that those vows are more important now than ever! Your husband has his issues, but where there is love, there is a way to overcome hurt. Here is insight into how we can help your husband out so that we can do our best to salvage your relationship.

If Your Husband is a Sex Addict: How to Help

First, why is he indulging in this? Have you ever heard of the phrase “Hurt people, hurt people”? This statement means that if I am hurt, then obviously I am going to hurt others. Does it have to be that way? If everyone who is hurting, hurts others, this world would be even more tragic to live in.

God doesn’t want us to hurt others just because we are hurt ourselves. Your husband hurt you. He hurt you because he is hurting. It’s easy to say that porn addiction is disgusting and absurd. However, in Romans 3:23 the Bible states that sin is sin. Meaning that there’s no sin that’s greater than the other. They are all the same.

That is a tough pill to swallow especially when we are hurt. We may think that when we are hurt by loved ones, that their sin is greater than others. The truth is that all sin is offensive, and all sin is equal. In my ministerial work, this levels the playing field between spouses so that there’s no self-righteousness.

Your husband did an awful thing, and we are hoping and praying that he can get help so that he can heal – the single best thing for a sex addict to do. If we keep yelling at him, telling him that he is a monster, that will not do much. We can beat people over the head about their failures, but we must take a more effective approach.

Secondly, your husband needs you to be his greatest support. God is there with you all. The human being that needs him now more than ever is you. You have been an outstanding wife. You are a great mom, you cook and clean, you help pay the bills and do the dirty work around the home. You have grown in sexual intimacy with your husband and given him your best. You didn’t deserve this – you deserve better!

So, should you just quit, get a divorce, and move on? Maybe. You should fight for your husband’s sobriety. He needs your help, and one way we can help him to do find out why he is engaging in this pattern. Giving up on him will only tempt you to sexual sin, tempt him to struggle with sexual sin as well. Ninety-nine percent of men struggle with sexual sin and whether they admit that they are addicts or not is another conversation.

Men in America engage in sexual sin on an almost daily basis. There’s online pornography, Tik Tok videos, social media, movies, magazines, commercials, other women flirting with them, etc. It’s everywhere. The battle rages on! Some men have been able to manage it well and are on a maintenance plan. Some are having challenging times and giving in. Some have good months and then have some bad months.

There’s no exact science to this. You need to know that most men struggle with this and are battling with it. That doesn’t excuse the behavior, nor does it make it okay to continue in it. The point is that we give up only to meet someone else who will struggle with that same thing. That’s why we need to remember our vows – in sickness and in health.

Your husband’s addiction is a disease. It’s destroying his self-esteem, mental health, and most of all his relationship with you. Who is going to support him now? I hope it’s you. You can be there for him to listen to him and ask him deep questions on why he is behaving this way. You can ask him what his childhood was like and about his first sexual experiences. That can tell you a lot about why he is doing what he is doing.

Men are called pigs and dogs for engaging in this behavior but are rarely called heroes in their homes when they are faithful. Husbands are working hard and trying to do their best to support their families, yet they get the least encouragement from their loved ones. They hear complaining and bickering which makes them want to tune out. The most common way for a man to tune out is to tune in sexually.

At first, it may start as an innocent crush or curiosity. Later, however, it develops into a relentless cycle of addiction that leaves them hopeless. Men need to be built up and encouraged for them to feel safe enough to be open. I encourage any reader to ask that question to see how your husband would respond. He may cry or he may get angry but that’s the point. He is feeling stuff and not dealing with it.

So, the wife can see that her role is to support him and be genuinely vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not yelling or venting at him. Vulnerability is exposing your deepest insecurities which then would breed more vulnerability on his part. He needs to do his part also. You aren’t going to save him. That is Jesus’ job.

He needs to be open with other men to get help. The best solution for men to overcome their sexual addiction is to have other men challenge them and get them on a plan. I’m sure you wouldn’t want a random woman to help him unless she’s a trained professional. With that in mind, I would highly recommend that you aren’t his only support for this issue. A minister, a therapist, a men’s’ support group, an addiction recovery group could all help your husband.

He needs to be open in those groups with other men who are battling with this issue. Too many times, the wife can turn a blind eye, or overexert herself, or simply complain, but unfortunately, it leads to little productivity. The true change will be when another man or a few good men talk to your man face to face about his problem. There may be resistance at first, opposition and whining about it, too.

The good thing is that if you keep requesting him to get help, he may eventually do it. What if he doesn’t? Then I would recommend you join a co-dependency group or a woman’s support group to get help. You may be thinking to yourself, why me? You are not responsible for his mistakes.

Your example will be super humbling to him. Imagine yourself telling him, “If you don’t want to get help then I will.” On Tuesday prepare dinner for you and the kids and I will meet with the ladies for support.” You don’t do it out of retaliation or spite, but because you are fighting for your relationship. He may hold his cards and remain tough. But while you are away, there will be no doubt that you will be on his mind. He will be humbled to get help.

Over time, he may give in and be curious about getting help. This step empowers you, but it also frees you from being a victim. You are not a victim! I will say it again, you are not a victim! You are a noble woman of God who is experiencing what many other women have or are currently experiencing in their lives.

That idea is freeing because some women lose hope that anything will change. The change will occur when changes are made. A tiny step can lead to an adventure. Someone must take the first step. Scary as it may be, it is necessary. Your husband may follow you because humility often breeds humility. Often, when the family takes a step in one direction the rest will soon follow behind.

If the worst happens, and he refuses to get help from anyone, then you have some choices to make. You can get advice from those closest to you on how to conduct a major intervention to get his attention. Some ideas can include, having friends visit him at the home, the family making a video for him, or individuals from your church writing him letters.

As a minister, I never would tell someone to leave someone but taking a vacation so he can marinate on his thoughts could also be helpful. Staying with your parents for a weekend could help wake him up. Please tell him beforehand so that he isn’t taken by surprise. That would not be beneficial. The time away may help awaken the true love you both have for each other.

Let’s do a quick recap. His sin is his sin. You are not at fault. You can be his biggest cheerleader through this tough time. You can be curious and ask questions about his childhood and why he could be hurting.

Hurt people hurt people, so try to figure out what he is trying to escape and avoid. Often, men watch porn because they want relief and gratification. It may not be that he doesn’t love you or find you attractive, it may simply be that he is looking for an escape.

Porn and sex addiction is a deep issue and needs to be addressed by other men so your husband can be challenged and held accountable. Sometimes interventions can help, and space is needed. All interventions should be done with respect and lots of guidance and support. Hopefully, these tips can lead you to a breakthrough in your marriage with your loved one! Don’t forget those vows! They are precious!

If you need additional help, please feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors listed in the counselor directory to schedule a counseling appointment. We would be more than happy to help.

Photos:
“Watching out the window.”, Courtesy of Taylor Deas-Melesh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tossed by the Waves”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Am I good enough?”, Courtesy of Hello I’m Nik, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Bands”, Courtesy of Sandy Millar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Premarital Counseling for Today’s Generation

Many couples are reflecting on how 2020 went for them and wondering how 2021 will treat them. We noticed a boom of weddings in 2020 despite the pandemic. This encouraged many to get engaged and to hopefully get married in 2021. We may wonder why people are getting married, and it could be as simple a matter as singles and dating couples being tired of living alone.

The pandemic has brought many issues to the surface such as depression due to constant isolation and anxiety when alone. Autophobia is the fear of being alone and is especially difficult the older you are. Undoubtedly families and couples did better than singles while being left alone for such a long time during the pandemic.

Although some took the risk of going out during the outbreak, many had no option but to stay at home out of concern for a loved one. This woke up many men and women to consider moving forward with their partners toward marriage. This is a noble solution to the problem of being alone. Wisdom would say that although it’s great to get married, we must build solidly to have a long-lasting marriage.

As a minister, I notice that couples in our church tend to rush into marriage but many, if not all, of these couples wisely seek advice. The pandemic is causing doubts and questions for possible weddings of 2021 such as financial costs, wedding attendance, where to live, school, jobs, family distance, etc.

A blessing in disguise of the pandemic is that it is helping couples to work through these issues with others, which is helping them to count the cost of moving forward.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’Luke 14:28-30

These couples cannot afford to put up money for a big wedding, and they are wondering where to live because, if the pandemic extends, they want to know could they be safe, and what is around them in walking distance i.e., parks, beach, trails, stores, etc. With this in mind, partners are asking one another about pre-marital counseling.

Premarital counseling is a foundational precursor to a healthy marriage because we tend to invest in what’s important to us. The passage in Luke helps us to consider how we are building. Couples aren’t just “fools rush in”, there is an alternative that can support a stronger relationship that will remain resilient during challenging times.

Sadly, many couples also ended their relationship in 2020 because the pandemic tested them beyond their capabilities and forced them to tap out. Couples’ characters were exposed and with the added pressures of isolation, they had no one to turn to. These marriages had little to no support that otherwise could have been of immense help.

The question is, why didn’t these couples have support? We could chalk it up to many possibilities, but one vital reason could be that it wasn’t discussed at their premarital counseling. We all have friends, but we don’t turn to them to get input especially about sensitive material as insecurities, sexual intimacy, conflict, jealousy, deceit, secrets, etc.

If adequate support is not set up in advance this challenge can be difficult to overcome. We all need support to move forward in life. We all appreciate the heroic stories of individuals, but the most encouraging ones are the teams of heroes that show everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Avengers, Justice League, and Star Wars are all some of the biggest box office hits in the last decade. The reason for their success is that they are teams fighting off a great evil. These have become bigger revenue-generating franchises and have overtaken the individual hero’s place as top of the box office king. Why do we have less enthusiasm about being a team in our marriages? Marriage is a perfect opportunity to be a team and have others team up to helps us.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is an interesting passage for couples because if my partner and I are one then who is going to help our one unit? Some may suggest that spouses are the other individual to help them out, but we can challenge that position by reminding everyone of the goal that God designed in Genesis 2:24 “the two will become one.”

By that principle, a couple who follows the word of God is one unit. The secret of Christian marriage is that we get to celebrate two lives joined together in holy matrimony, yet they are not alone. In the kingdom of God, we have support and guidance to face any issue. Marriages should never be alone. As separate individuals, we can support one another and maximize the potential of our unions.

2021 is going to be a full year of many couples dating, getting engaged, then married. Families will begin and many joyous occasions will take place. During those moments there will be stress and anxiety and one way to combat those symptoms will be to get premarital counseling as soon as possible.

First, dating or engaged couples can jumpstart their long-term relationship by investing in a healthy premarital counseling series so that they can develop a great foundation to make their marriage strong. Second, they can develop a support network. If they do these two crucial things, along with reading their Bible and praying every day, then they can have confidence that will stay together for the long haul.

If for some reason their church, ministry, friends, or community cannot provide that, then therapy can be a great alternative. Marriage and Family therapists are trained in basic approaches that can help couples in their relationships hence the title “marriage” therapist. Some may say that therapy is too pricey and could take up a lot of your time. An argument can be made that investing in your relationship is priceless.

When I married Nicole, there was no price too high to pay for the ring, wedding, and honeymoon. We had a budget of course, but my attitude was that I wanted to invest in the things I thought were important to me. Where we put our money shows where we are invested.

My advice to those of you reading this article is that if you are considering getting married soon, think about possibly getting premarital counseling through a therapist who will be impartial and professional. Sometimes our friends and family can mean well when it comes to giving us premarital advice but at times that can have some biases attached with it.

A professional therapist is trained to be in the middle and not side with either partner. The licensed marriage and family therapist will work with both individuals to help bring issues to light that could be of concern and to build skills to help them navigate expectations for the future.

Having a healthy dynamic marriage is priceless. I look back to when Nicole and I got premarital counseling and I shudder to think what would be said of us right now if we had never invested in our relationship after our engagement. In truth, our marriage would be a nightmare.

I’m grateful that others supported me and helped me to learn ways to communicate effectively, how to plan out my week with my wife, prioritizing biblical values, sexual intimacy, reconciliation, daily encouragement, effective roles, letting go of past hurts, submitting to one another, listening, finances, etc. Many couples get married and do not talk about these issues.

It is no wonder that couples have so many arguments. They approach their relationship with optimism but then they hit a snag after the vows. When conflict arises, they realize that they didn’t prepare for these issues and are shocked when they have no one to turn to. They want to save face, so they keep it “in-house”. They go to church and pretend that everything is fine.

Deep down, however, they are yearning for help so that they can grow. This piece is written for those looking forward to getting married this year but honestly, anyone can get counseling at any point in their relationship. It’s an investment that will reap long-lasting rewards. One spouse can go alone, although it is highly recommended that both attend.

If the couple is healthy, and one spouse wants to process a trauma from their past, then that one spouse should get therapy and may not need to include the other. If the conflict affects both, then both should attend to get therapy. Premarital counseling will prepare the couple so that they will not be blindsided by any potential threats.

Athletes say that the worst hit they take on the field is the one they don’t see coming. With premarital counseling, not only will you be ready for those challenges, but you will also be ready to confront them. Not only will you be ready to confront them but be victorious as a wonderful team. I close out with an encouraging analogy from Jesus on how to build our spiritual homes:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:24-27

Photos:
“Rings”, Courtesy of Nick Karvounis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love & Respect”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Devotions Together”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Looking for Love: How to Overcome Emotional Affairs

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Looking for love in all the wrong places”? It’s a phrase we throw around to our peers when we casually talk about a hopeless romantic who may be searching for love in areas where they will not find true love, such as emotional affairs. This idea of true love is what many are searching for.

Think about the following: fame, fortune, popularity, success, power, family, and so forth. Why do we want all these things? We want them because we want to be loved. Maybe we won’t admit it but at the end of the day, we work hard because we are searching for that endless love. There are some interesting proverbs in the Bible that support this.

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. – Proverbs 19:22

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? – Proverbs 20:6

Unfailing love is what we all want right? That comfort of knowing that your partner or loved one wants to prioritize you and to hold you dearly. We look forward to that warmth and affection with our partners because it makes us feel so special. I remember the first few dates I went with my wife Nicole how easily I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t help it.

My emotions and thoughts just overwhelmed me with this notion that I wanted to be with Nicole and no one else. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, holidays are all special because we cherish these moments with those we genuinely love.

The flip side to that coin also is that we want a partner who is willing to be tried and true with us. Forgiving one another, being patient, understanding, supplying encouragement and support are all aspects of when things aren’t as blissful. We prefer that our partners work with us during challenging times and not give up on us when we royally mess it up.

So good or bad, we want true love that overrides all situations. Those two proverbs aren’t there by accident. They are there to provide insight into how we think and to bring to the forefront what our mission is. Our mission isn’t to be right, or to amass wealth, or to be famous. The goal is to find the cherished love that is so evasive at times. The question is how are we searching for this love?

2021 will be a year of growth for many of us and I’d dare say that growing in our relationships is a very top priority for many of us. 2020 brought hurt and discouragement for many of us also. Addiction grew, domestic violence went up, many betrayals surfaced because the pandemic of COVID-19 exposed our true natures.

One of those exposures may have been emotional affairs. Some may have caught their partners watching pornography on the internet. Others could have wondered why their finances were disappearing and still others may have been that substance abuse was uncovered. However, emotional affairs may explain why you are reading this article.

Maybe you were the partner that was affected by a spouse who connected with someone online in an inappropriate way. Maybe your partner has a bad habit of being flirtatious with the opposite gender with certain staff at a certain establishment which pains you to see. Despite bringing it up you may get accused of overreacting.

Another possibility is that maybe you or someone who is in an emotional affair and you’re wondering if you’ve gone too far. This article interested you because you are at a crossroads in your relationship, and you may have ventured out of the boundaries in an emotional relationship and now you are contemplating on what you are going to do.

Lastly, you could be a friend of someone who is either a victim or a perpetrator and you want to help them out. I applaud you along with our readers for your noble heart to research and understand ways to help your friends potentially stay together for the long haul. Not sure where you are at in this, but you’ve come to the right place to get some extra resources that can help them lovingly and spiritually.

What’s Wrong with Emotional Affairs?

Why are emotional affairs wrong? I want to tackle this first because some may say “there’s nothing physical so what’s the issue?” Indeed, an emotional relationship may not include any physical involvement but there’s a reason it hurts our partners. When we enter a relationship, we may not show our deal-breakers upfront. So, some partners may think they can enjoy their relationship if there’s nothing physical with someone else.

It’s kind of a taboo thing but nothing that could have enough substance to become a deal-breaker. We may point out that the Bible says that the only three ways out of a marriage are death, adultery, or abandonment. As an evangelist in my church, I can agree with that. However, emotional affairs cause major disruption in your marriage.

Think about it this way, would you want someone to be with you at the altar ready to say, “I do” only to hear them state that they will only be faithful to you “99% of the time”? No one would accept that. We want our partners to genuinely love us 100% of the time. It would be insulting to have dinner with your spouse only for them to be daydreaming of some crush they have.

Emotional relationships are a matter of the heart and that’s what needs to be addressed. Jesus calls this out as “matters of the heart”:

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23

Jesus is calling out these physical issues, but he is addressing them from the perspective of the heart. Usually, perpetrators of emotional relationships state that they were reacting to someone else flirting or making advances. The perpetrator needs to understand that those boundaries aren’t to be crossed because something that has no strong boundary needs to be questioned.

We have doors in our home, locks on our windows, alarms for our cars, codes, and passwords to our computers for what reason? It’s to protect what we cherish. We protect what we love. If the boundaries are off, then we invite danger to our most intimate places and Jesus takes the ax to the root by saying that we need to look at our heart.

Adultery doesn’t just happen, it evolves, and these scriptures point out that it started within us. It could be why in the gospel it says that the most important commandment is to love our Lord with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. God wants all of us. He doesn’t accept partial love.

That expectation makes sense to me because I don’t want my wife to be thinking of some guy who flirted with her at the supermarket earlier that day. If we are having dinner, I want her to be present with me. We all want that. Should that situation arise, my wife has some great women in her life with whom she can be open about that temptation. She can seek input from women who will follow up with her and pray to God for her to be victorious in that area of her life.

The same thing goes for me. If I am tempted, I can call a brother in Christ who can listen and provide me with input so that I can tackle this from the beginning instead of it running ramped in my heart. Remember that these expectations are supposed to be high because we are searching for unfailing love. Our partners deserve to have us be present with them in mind, body, and soul.

Tips for Overcoming Emotional Infidelity

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a solid approach for confronting emotional affairs. A foundational core principle of CBT is that it helps us understand the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Anyone who is either a victim or perpetrator of emotional affairs should seek professional help to confront this at once to salvage their relationship.

A trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can validate your struggles from the start because they want to listen to your story without judgment. Does this mean that the perpetrator can be validated as well? Absolutely. As professionals, we are not here to take sides. Our goal is to provide you with tools to discover what is going on and work together to move forward in healthier ways.

Most Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in some form or fashion to provide CBT because it is one of the most widely used approaches for therapy. One of the main reasons it is widely used and accepted is because it deals with problems from the inside and out. Adultery is physical which means in CBT language that it can be labeled as an action.

But how would you go about an emotional affair? Can people just sweep it under the rug? Not with CBT. It can be classified as an emotional issue. The therapist would not just focus on emotions but would help the client process their thoughts behind their emotions and what actions they took.

With CBT it all works together. Not one part is left out. Interestingly, the gospels say that if we are to love the Lord then we need to do it all with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no shortcutting this process.

This approach is excellent for those who have been hurt by emotional infidelity because they feel the pain of being betrayed. They can explore those feelings and realize past trauma tied into the current hurt. The process continues as to what they are thinking and possible actions they can take to empower themselves. This is one of many possible approaches but in my work with hundreds of clients, I can’t think of a better approach.

Here are some tips to overcome emotional affairs based on the CBT approach that would include Thoughts, Emotions, Actions (T.E.A.) dialogue:

Thoughts

What thoughts are we processing? This is crucial to start with because so many times we rush to the evidence (phone, internet, talks, etc.) Once an emotional affair has been discovered, we need to ask both partners what they are thinking. One may think that the relationship is over. But is that true? Many people have different emotions, and they stem from what we think.

We don’t condone the affair, but we must try to listen to what our thought process was like to get to the root, recalling Jesus’ words to focus on the heart. The injured party should also voice insecurities, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, etc. The party who was emotionally unfaithful should be a great listener and confirm their partner’s thought process as well.

Remember this rule, if you do something or feel something, you must have thought of it beforehand. Unfaithfulness of any kind is not to be dismissed as a reaction incident. The mind played a role all along.

Emotions

What are we both feeling? What goes on inside of us internally is something to be appreciated. We love romance, zeal, and passion. Those same emotions can but in two ways because someone who is charismatic could also be a big-time flirt. So, we need to address our emotions and validate them further recognizing that emotions are tools and not weapons.

Validation by all parties, the partners, support, and the therapist are crucial. There is no such thing as crazy emotions. The betrayer should allow ample time for the hurting individual to gather their emotions and join in their mourning. This can be a painstaking process but one that leads to success more times than not.

Actions

The whole story must be told. This may sound unfair to the one who is betrayed but it is paramount that both spouses share their entire story of what happened without judgment. We don’t need to be sentimental with the party who committed the infidelity, but we need to understand what is going on in their hearts.

Sharing your story will cause discomfort but it will help the healing process the more times you share it. Get help and support. You don’t need to tell the world but view it as an opportunity to empower yourself. Recommit yourselves to one another, set up boundaries, and have weekly accountable times with your support system.

In conclusion, I want to say that no flaw is fatal. People who either commit emotional affairs or are betrayed by them can still recover and do well. We can make some terrible mistakes, but the grace of Jesus helps us during those crucial times. These are hurtful times but if we seek help and support there’s no telling of what incredible progress we can make as couples.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Paola Chaaya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “God is Love”, Courtesy of Hassan Saleh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Bay”, Courtesy of Charlie Foster, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Just Married”, Courtesy of Desiree Fawn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License