How to Fix a Toxic Relationship: 8 Bible Verses to Consider

Looking to figure out how to fix a toxic relationship? Here are 8 Bible verses to consider while deciding if the relationship has any hope of continuing.

Being stuck in a toxic relationship

The cause of all toxic behavior is sin, which entered the world when Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, rebelled against God (Genesis 3). Because we are children of our first parents, we are all stained with this original sin.

We feel anger, pride, and selfishness, and we feel trapped. This causes us to constantly search for something to hope in or a way of escape. There is one hope only of escaping this sin: Jesus Christ who died for us so that we could be saved (Romans 5:8). With His grace, we can find out how to fix a toxic relationship.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul admonished the church in Corinth for their lack of love and indifference toward him. This was because of their close connections with unbelievers. This had corrupted their spiritual growth.

Does this other person indulge people that distract from the gospel in your relationship? If this person or spouse is not being built up by believers, and is instead satisfied with being poured into by unbelievers, it is likely that you have a toxic relationship on your hands. Prayer is a great place to start as God promises He gives wisdom generously to all, without reproach as we ask Him with faith that He will provide it (James 1).

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. – Hebrews 13:14

This was one of the final exhortations by Paul to his followers in his epistle while imprisoned. He wanted them to show hospitality to strangers, remember those mistreated in prison, shun the love of money, and be content with what they had, remembering the Lord is always there to love and guide you. He is there for us in marriage, too.

God founded the institution; therefore, its vows must be upheld. Nothing is to come between you and loving your spouse and holding them in high regard – not their attitude or behavior, not your kids, not a job or other activity, not another person in any way.

Today, this type of behavior is too prevalent, often resulting in the break-up of marriages. If you find there is anything in the way of loving your spouse, you need to pray to the Lord for help to fix this toxic relationship and help you to rely on Him to help you do it His way.

Do not be deceived; ‘bad company corrupts good morals.’ – 1 Corinthians 15:33

This is true in all relationships – family, friends, and work. Who are your “friends?” Do they support you in times of want; are they there for you no matter the circumstances? Or do they disappear, making you wonder who you can trust? The Lord will never leave your side. He is incorruptible.

As a Christian, you are called to love others. Loving means taking the right course of action, in accordance with God’s Word, and to not be corrupted or change your views. He is the Lord, and He will let you know how to fix a toxic relationship with others. Conform to God’s law, not the world’s.

If your brother sins against you, go, and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17

These are strong words, but they ensure accountability and effective conflict resolution. You must look at others as souls. Forgiving a person (family, friend, co-worker, etc.) or spouse means looking at them as a fellow “brother” or “sister” in Christ, a soul that has been redeemed and is called righteous just as you are.

Forgiving someone who is not a believer is loving our enemies just as we are instructed to, and looking at them as souls in need of a Savior. Wading through the consequences of the wrongs done might take longer. Knowing how to fix a toxic relationship can involve deeper issues that will take time to understand. Take it to the Lord in prayer, search His Word for wisdom, and seek out good, God-centered counsel.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:8

When it comes to sex, we see that nothing is new under the sun. In Paul’s day, sex of all kinds was normal for most people. This included adultery, prostitution, pedophilia, homosexuality, etc. Sex outside of marriage was accepted as normal, just as it is today. Paul states you must flee from sexual immorality. It’s wiser to escape from this sin than be subdued by it (Genesis 39:7-12). You are only harming yourself and others involved.

Paul fought against the casual attitude toward it by some Christians and the pain it causes to both spouses. Today we still commit these sins. This causes friction, bad attitudes, and bad relationships. You will need to learn how to fix this toxic relationship.

Rely on the Lord. Pray for a resolution that will return the love you feel for your spouse and an escape from any relationship that does not honor God by respecting the design of sex to be between a married man and woman. Seek counsel to help point you to God’s will.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Paul once more tells us to treat others’ needs as more important than our own, and other people as greater than us. By doing this, you will achieve the kind of humility that results in love and unity. His goal was to center attention on other people, not yourself. We need to do this in our personal relationships and marriages.

By treating people with respect, you will be influencing the relationship out of toxicity. There will be the most opportunity for harmony and understanding of each other’s needs when at least one person is honoring the Lord. There may still be conflict, but true love will, with God’s help, see you through such times as you look to suffer well and seek out the other soul’s good above your own.

I appeal to you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. – Romans 16:17-18

Paul begs the Christians in Rome to be on their guard against false teaching, by holding to the truth they know and protecting it at all costs. He knew that others would come after him and try to sow division and confusion in the church, seeking after their own selfish desires.

Fixing a toxic relationship is a manner of speaking the truth to one another, whether at home, the office, or with anyone. Cling to the gospel to see your way through any measure of toxic relationship. Put everything to the test of Scripture to make straight your paths.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

With this chapter, it’s easy to see that love conquers all. There is nothing it can’t overcome. This is the love of Christ. As followers of Christ, we strive to love like this by the power of the Holy Spirit. Knowing how to fix a toxic relationship is using this love for every relationship. The Lord will show you how if you ask Him. Evil is overcome by the power of love.

It is quite clear in these verses that love should dominate our thoughts and actions. How to fix a toxic relationship then becomes a simple matter of understanding God’s love and loving the other person with it.

Get help with your relationships today by reaching out to a therapist on our website.

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Why Do Affairs Happen? 7 Reasons for Infidelity

There is often value in answering the question, “What happened?” In the story of a marriage, when infidelity occurs, it’s important to understand what happened and why it happened. According to some statistics, infidelity is responsible for between 20-40% of divorces. However, not everyone who has experienced infidelity opts to end their marriage. Many couples can find healing and choose to remain together.

Part of the healing process includes understanding why the infidelity happened in the first place so that the marriage can be strengthened and restored. Knowing why infidelity occurred can help a couple with accountability, and with developing a deeper understanding of how to love one another better.

Some reasons for infidelity

Infidelity is when one partner breaks their commitment to remain faithful to their partner by engaging in a romantic or sexual relationship with another person. Infidelity doesn’t have to be sexual. An emotional affair is when a person forms a deep connection with someone other than their partner, and that connection resembles or rivals the connection in the primary relationship.

Infidelity occurs under a wide variety of circumstances, and there are several reasons why people have affairs. What’s important to remember is that though there may be significant reasons why one decides to have an affair, the affair is still a decision, and one should take responsibility for one’s decisions. Understanding the reason behind infidelity shouldn’t absolve responsibility or create room for blaming or blame-shifting.

The key reason to understand why infidelity happens is to understand where there may be weaknesses in the relationship or issues that an individual or the couple needs to address as they go through counseling. Some of the reasons why infidelity occurs include:

Issues in the primary relationship

This is the reason most people assume why infidelity happens. Perhaps there’s a wedge that forms in the relationship and the couple drifts apart. Perhaps one partner begins working a lot more or goes through a serious illness, and intimacy suffers as a result. A period of prolonged conflict can also potentially result in seeking comfort outside the relationship.

Permissive attitudes

We live in a cultural and social context in which the mores around monogamy have been shifting profoundly. Polyamorous relationships are lauded, and as these cultural and societal norms about sex and intimacy shift, people may find themselves crossing boundaries into infidelity.

Low self-esteem and compulsion

A person may find themselves having an affair against their will, for instance when they are coerced by their employer. An individual with low self-esteem may also find themselves in an affair because they struggle to say “No” or because they may be seeking validation through the affair.

Sex addiction

A condition like sex or romance addiction can also be a contributing factor to an affair occurring.

Nostalgia and self-exploration

It’s common for an affair to happen when two people who were in a relationship before managing to connect again and rekindle their relationship. Taking the road not traveled and exploring new aspects of oneself is another reason why infidelity might also occur.

Revenge

If one spouse has had an affair in the past, the other spouse might have an affair as a form of revenge and to hurt their counterpart.

To end the relationship

If someone feels as though they want to end the relationship, and they feel otherwise unheard or powerless to do so, they may have an affair as a way to undermine the relationship in such a significant manner as to end it.

Finding healing after infidelity

When infidelity occurs, it undermines trust in the relationship. That breach of trust is serious enough to end the relationship. A betrayal can make it difficult to move beyond being suspicious of the partner who cheated. In many ways, infidelity can also be traumatic, causing nightmares and flashbacks for both partners.

Healing after infidelity can only really happen if there is an acknowledgment that the affair happened. Without remorse or taking responsibility for what happened, a couple can’t move forward and begin making the changes necessary to heal the broken trust. In addition to this, accountability is necessary so that the partner who was cheated on feels safe enough to trust their partner again.

Counseling is another ingredient in a couple’s finding healing. It creates a safe and supportive environment for the couple to explore feelings of hurt, and for them to express their needs and begin setting goals for themselves.

Through counseling, the couple can explore reasons for infidelity and why the infidelity occurred. They can also identify unhealthy patterns in the relationship, address areas where the couple does not love each other well, and work to improve their communication and intimacy.

Getting help

If you or your partner is struggling to work through the impact of infidelity, please reach out to us at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling. We can arrange an appointment for you to see a trained Christian therapist in Huntington Beach, California who can help you walk a healing journey.

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Mapping the Heart: Navigating Codependency and Establishing Boundaries

The accounts of Jesus’ time on earth provide a practical and spiritual template for those who follow Him. His approach to navigating challenges serves to encourage and infuse confidence in all we confront. He exhibited the principle of establishing healthy relationships, communication, and boundaries.

Prioritizing the Father’s will, Jesus’ desire to please His Father was the impetus that governed His ministry. He relentlessly pursued what would ultimately give God glory in every circumstance, regardless of the demands that others attempted to impose on Him.

The mirror of Scripture can help us to observe this as we watch Jesus engage with a pair of sisters hosting Jesus at their home. Martha was busy preparing for dinner, yet not enjoying the Lord’s presence.

While her sister Mary listened to Jesus teach, Martha lamented to the Savior. Instead of communicating directly with Mary, Martha circumvented her, by talking to Jesus about what Mary wasn’t doing and what she presumed should be happening instead. Jesus’ response exhibited a reflection of what healthy boundaries can look like in our own lives.

While Jesus didn’t negate the necessity of dinner, His emphasis in this account helps us to recognize, repent, and reset where our priorities misalign. He addressed Martha but refused to allow imposed guilt to usurp His priority.

As Messiah, He realized that Martha wanted to be validated and supported; Martha’s need for replenishment was apparent. It was what Mary had already chosen: to ease her codependent and anxious mind in rest and replenishment at Jesus’ feet.

No amount of work, regardless of how noble, fills us like spending time with Jesus. Christ presented the perfect example, illustrating that loving people and establishing boundaries are not mutually exclusive. We need both; and in fact, one informs the other.

We set boundaries because we want to protect the time in the presence of God and with loved ones and preserve these relationships. It is because of love that we establish boundaries as parameters to redirect our resources to nourish what we value.

When we are busying ourselves with what everyone else is or isn’t doing, we miss important face-to-face time with the Lord. There may be words and wisdom that He wants to share, but as long as we are codependently preoccupied with other people’s behaviors, we deflect attention from Christ.

Boundaries around our peace or priorities weaken the hold that worry and anxiety leverage. Yet, when we avoid marking boundaries on our time, we overextend ourselves and overcommit limited resources of energy and attention. Like Martha, this can be taxing for us as well as those in relationship with us.

Instead of engaging in life-giving exchanges, we keep score, ticking off our contributions and others’ perceived failures. We diminish them, even as we see in this story (Luke 10:38-42). There are two hostesses, yet they are both displaying a different kind of welcome for the Visitor in their home.

When we operate from a codependent mindset, we project what we want onto others, stepping over the boundaries around what they value. Instead, we misuse our relational influence to control them with guilt or emotion, presuming that they should respond to what we want and disregard their own unique needs and desires.

Codependency looks away from the areas to be reconfigured in our hearts. Furthermore, it minimizes the impact that our controlling words and actions have on those we love.

The speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye looms larger than the log bursting through our own when we allow codependency to govern and inform our mindset (Matthew 7:3-5). The result is that we won’t establish healthy boundaries that refocus us on what we need to manage with the Lord in our own lives. We place ourselves in the position of God by trying to rescue, redeem, or reprove other people for what they need to manage with the Savior.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We can make immediate pivots, recognizing where our codependent disregard for boundaries has spilled over into interactions with our loved ones. The Lord is our Counselor and Helper. Through His Holy Spirit, He will direct us to counseling resources to support us with making lasting change. Just like change came to Mary and Martha’s home, it can come to ours as well.

Next steps to establishing boundaries

Wherever you are, take courage and hope that change is possible. God has provided valid solutions and practical support for you to initiate it in your own life. Contact one of the counselors here at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling in California. Make your appointment to experience the beginning of life changes. You can begin to redraw the lines of your heart map, establishing boundaries that protect what matters most.

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What You Can Expect and Hope to Gain from Family Counseling

Functional families are often believed to be the bedrock of our society. They are the most basic unit of a community and even government. They provide and secure members’ health, education, and their interests. This is why family counseling can be of use.

However, negative behavior of any individual member of the family can cause fractures in the unit, and often professional therapy is an effective source of support and help. Family counseling is a type of counseling that not only assists individuals within the family but the family as a single group.

If you wonder whether family therapy will be helpful to your family as it deals with particular stresses, this article will briefly describe the skills of a family counselor and the different instances families find counseling beneficial.

Family counseling helps in these ways.

Of course, families are unique and therefore several types of therapy can be used to support them through family counseling.

Two common types are solution-focused brief therapy as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Solution-focused brief therapy sets out short-term goals for the therapy sessions and incorporates positive psychology principles and practices. This helps families focus on the solution instead of the problem.

The type of therapy is described as hope-friendly and looks to bring out positive emotions to help create a future orientation for the family as they work together in a motivated way to implement the agreed sustainable behavioral change.

In other words, the point of solution-focused brief therapy is for the family to work together to solve their own problems.

The second type of therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which helps families to notice and understand ways of thinking that are not helpful, and sometimes harmful. New ways of thinking are nurtured.

Types of problems tackled during family counseling.

Professionals involved in family therapy are trained to assist with a broad spectrum of significant clinical problems. Some of these may include:

  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Marriage problems.
  • Individual mental and mood issues.
  • Complex dynamics surrounding the parent-child relationship.

Family counseling professionals are often mental health professionals and practitioners who have professional training and years of clinical practice experience. These professionals are licensed as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists to consider, determine, and treat mental and emotional disorders, issues with health and behavior, as well as the relationship complexities that surround couples, marriage, and families.

Research shows that in some cases marriage and family therapy results in better outcomes than individual counseling for mental health problems, for example:

  • Adult alcoholism.
  • Adult schizophrenia.
  • Affective or mood disorder.
  • Anorexia in young adult women.
  • Childhood autism.
  • Childhood conduct disorders .
  • Chronic physical illness in adults and children.
  • Drug abuse in adolescents and adults.
  • Marital distress disputes.

The need for family counseling professionals.

Studies verify the successful impact family counseling professionals have in treating a wide variety of significant and complex problems that beset families. Further research finds that the families who went for counseling were pleased and satisfied with the help they received from marriage and family health therapists.

The results from studies showed that more than 85% of clients reported that their emotional health improved, and almost 75% of parents with children reported better behavior inside and outside the family unit, as well as an improvement in overall school performance.

Similar findings among adults in the family unit show that as health, emotional, and mental disorders are helped through family counseling, there are improvements in professional productivity and relationships, social life, involvement in the community, and overall well-being.

Looking for the type of help that family therapy provides?

If you are looking for the type of help that family therapy provides, please browse our online counselor directory or contact our office at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling to schedule an appointment. The Christian counselors in Huntington Beach, California would be honored to walk with you on this journey.

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2 Benefits of Marriage Counseling and 3 Disadvantages

The difficulties with marriage start at the beginning of a relationship. No one starts a relationship looking to end up in marriage counseling one day, but from the very start of “I think I like you” to the “I do” and beyond, there are certain difficulties that each couple will face

Some of these difficulties require more work than others. A majority of the troubles that couples face can benefit from marriage therapy. As with any tool, however, there are both benefits and disadvantages to marriage counseling.

Two benefits of marriage counseling.

For any couple working with a marriage counselor, there are benefits to reap once the work has been done to find a counselor that fits. The premise of marriage counseling is to assist couples in their relationship with themselves, one another, and the systems around them.

Choosing to work in such a context should not be a light decision, nor should it be a one-sided decision. Couples who come to counseling need to decide together that they are there to do the work, otherwise there are likely to be no benefits at all.

Communication.

One of the top benefits that can come from marriage counseling is improved communication. Even starting to talk about marriage therapy, whether for premarital, newly married couples, or long-time married couples can bring about better talk as a couple. This “pre-talk” allows the couple to define the terms, establish a reasonable assessment of how important the marriage is to one another, and explore what areas need to be worked on most.

While in marriage counseling, a counselor can help the couple improve their communication by supplying mediation and skill training. With a counselor acting as a mediator, couples have the advantage of slowing their communication down.

The counselor makes room for pausing and reflecting. This sort of mediation allows for couples to be heard by one another and get their point across more effectively. The mediation of a counselor helps couples to create safe boundaries while navigating conflict.

Skill training helps the couple increase their active and reflective listening. Skill training also serves to increase the couple’s positive communication by allowing them to practice filtering and shaping their words. By improving communication, the couple’s intimacy is increased and thereby overall satisfaction in the relationship.

Longevity.

Marriages start with the desire for the relationship to last and in order to have a lasting marriage, there needs to be a certain level of satisfaction. In other words, decreased satisfaction in times of conflict can jeopardize the marriage. In order to increase satisfaction between the couple, marriage counselors support them in developing better communication, conflict resolution, and empathy skills.

With an increase in these skills, the couple can feel more understood, more at ease, and more willing to be vulnerable. This leads to the couple having their needs met. As conflict decreases and needs are increasingly met, the satisfaction of the relationship increases. This increase in satisfaction improves the longevity of the relationship exponentially.

Three disadvantages of marriage counseling.

There are both benefits of marriage counseling and disadvantages. Two of the benefits of marriage counseling discussed above are communication and longevity. These play into one another, just as the disadvantages do. Disadvantages of marriage counseling can include areas of conflict resolution, self-discipline, and that it is not a “one-size-fits-all” intervention.

Conflict resolution.

Every marriage has its moments of conflict. Within couples therapy, couples are spending time addressing that conflict in hopes of a resolution. The disadvantage to this is that it can stir up the conflict and leave the couple more hurt before any resolution comes. Counseling takes time, and there are no guarantees with it. This means things can get worse before they get better.

Another aspect of conflict resolution is that often within marriage counseling, working on a current conflict brings up conflicts from the past. This leaves couples to face multiple conflicts at once. Any work with conflict resolution creates the opportunity for immense individual growth and strengthening of skills.

Working with a marriage counselor on resolving conflict in a marriage can help the couple develop a plan that improves their marriage. However, the plan will not be void of hard work and the facing of more difficult pain. Each individual has to make the decision to face the amount of work that conflict resolution presents them with.

Self-discipline.

Getting married to someone doesn’t mean that person is perfect. There is often an understanding within the relationship that there is room for each individual to grow. What can be unknown at times is the level of self-discipline it will take to both grow and endure the other’s need for growth.

Marriage counselors hold a unique position with a couple to both help the individuals see the need for self-discipline or growth, as well as to support them in building the skills necessary to achieve it. These skills include brain re-training, empathy building, behavior modification, habit training, etc.

Learning new skills and practicing new roles within the marriage requires self-discipline. As with any discipline, it is not easy to endure. The temporary pain is sometimes determined to not be worth the long-term gain. Marriage counseling requires the individuals to face this reality and own up to it.

Not a “one-size-fits-all” intervention.

Each individual in a marriage has the choice to both enter into and stay in marriage counseling. This requires multiple things to be right in order for it to work. For marriage therapy specifically, both individuals must agree to commit to the marriage and work on it, otherwise it is just individual counseling with an extra person in the room.

Once commitment to the marriage is secured, both individuals need to agree on who they work with. If one person feels uncomfortable with the counselor, or both, it will be an uphill battle while the couple is already wounded. After deciding that continuing the marriage is right for the couple and that the counselor is right for the couple, the couple then needs to decide at some point whether or not the counseling is serving the marriage well.

This decision can be the most difficult part to face, leaving the couple at a strong disadvantage. The difficulty lies within the hard work that facing conflict creates. Due to there being no guarantees in therapy, enduring hard work can leave the couple feeling more depleted than simply enduring the conflict, and thereby become a confusing time when they have to decide whether to continue counseling or not.

Marriage counseling is not the only way for couples to improve their marriage. In fact, for some it may create more conflict in a way that proves ineffective at addressing any original conflicts at hand. Sometimes talking things out and expressing feelings does not serve the purpose of resolution. Marriage counseling may not fit the relationship dynamics, circumstances, or even culture of the couple.

Is marriage counseling worth it?

Marriage counseling is a tool for couples to use just like any other tool. It is meant to support the couple in the growth and longevity of their relationship with each other. Whether the disadvantages outweigh the advantages really comes down to the married couple. If you are ready to explore more regarding whether marriage counseling is right for you, reach out to a counselor near you.

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Trauma and Friendship: 3 Ways One Impacts the Other

If you have been through trauma, whether as a child or as an adult, you might recognize symptoms such as loss of hope, fear of the future, and a preoccupation with death either of oneself or a loved one. These can be related to physical trauma or trauma associated with grief and loss. But even psychological trauma, such as what can result from emotional neglect, impacts bonds typically formed in friendship.

What is trauma?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.”

Trauma can be caused by a one-time event or by a series of events and circumstances. A person can undergo childhood trauma due to situations beyond his control, such as experiencing homelessness and food insecurity or witnessing abuse in the home. A pattern of trauma responses can be immediate and long-lasting.

What are short-term trauma responses?

Immediate responses to trauma include shock, denial, and a refusal to believe new ways of life are possible. These responses may last anywhere from a day or two to weeks or months after the event(s) occurred.

Long-term trauma responses.

Long-term trauma responses may be more relational. If a person who lost her mother as a young child struggles to bond with females, this could be a result of trauma. Other long-term responses may be depression, fear of future loss that impacts a person’s willingness to be vulnerable, and physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea.

How do trauma and friendship interact?

Experiencing trauma doesn’t necessarily mean you will always struggle to form friendship bonds. However, some research suggests that those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder may be slower to form attachment bonds because of it.

Getting help early from a trained, trusted professional counselor can be an asset to anyone who has experienced trauma. Friendships can thrive post-trauma if a person can overcome and move forward after the traumatic event has taken place. New studies show that adult friendships may even help a person recover from trauma.

Here are three ways that trauma impacts friendship and friendship impacts trauma recovery.

1. Trauma can make a person feel isolated if he or she doesn’t know anyone else who has experienced trauma.

Trauma impacts everyone differently. Our responses to it are largely determined by our personalities and wiring, our health history, and our support from friends and family. When someone, particularly children and teens, goes through something traumatic, they can naturally separate themselves from others – thus struggling to bond and form friendships – out of fear of being different or not being able to relate to other kids and teens.

2. Trauma can make everyday life difficult and turn grief into complex grief over time.

If a person is impacted by a traumatic event where they lost a loved one, such as in a car accident where a family member died, it’s essential to understand the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Seeking treatment as early as possible is important. Research shows that untreated PTSD can result in complex grief. This can disrupt a person’s daily rhythms, making it tough to work, study, or share common experiences with friends.

3. Friendship can bring healing to those who suffered childhood trauma.

Studies suggest that forming friendships in later adult life keeps a person’s immune system healthy. But these friendships can also bring healing and hope to those who have undergone trauma early in life. If you have noticed that a traumatic event has impacted your friendships, contact one of our offices today. A licensed counselor at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling can help you on the journey toward healing and wholeness.

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Repairing a Relationship after an Anger Outburst

An anger outburst can cause a person to lose control over what they say and do, which can be devastating. Anger can override a person’s rational thought processes, placing them in the uncomfortable situation of having to take back hurtful words spoken in anger that they never would have uttered under normal circumstances.

What’s an anger outburst?

Have you ever felt so angry that your anger felt like it was a living, fire-breathing, or ice-cold thing inside of you? Perhaps a loved one had slighted you one too many times, or a friend questioned a choice you made or a cherished belief you hold, and it stirred up anger in you.

Everyone gets angry at some point in their lives, though what varies between people is what makes them angry and what they do with themselves once they feel angry.

We often express anger in the ways that were modeled to us by people that were significant in our formation, such as our parents and other adults around us. From these experiences we learn what is considered an appropriate way to express anger, whether by suppressing it or expressing it through colorful expletives.

For some people, having seen anger expressed one way and found that to be problematic, they choose to go another route in their own life. Consider the case where a person with parents who had violent and explosive tempers finding themselves preferring to keep their own anger bottled up instead.

You don’t have to suppress anger to deal with it effectively. In fact, suppressing anger is an ineffective and potentially self-destructive way to deal with feelings of anger.

That anger may lodge itself in your heart and result in developing resentment toward others or health problems such as high blood pressure. But expressing anger well requires self-awareness and emotional intelligence so that harm does not befall others in the process of that self-expression. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

An anger outburst can take many forms, often including either violent behavior or angry verbal expressions. It can look like a sudden, impulsive, out-of-control burst of anger that starts without warning and is typically seen as out of proportion to what triggered the episode.

Some examples of anger outbursts range from incidents and patterns of behavior such as road rage and domestic abuse, as well as the throwing or breaking of objects or punching through walls. An anger outburst can have not only legal consequences, but financial and relational ramifications as well.

The effect of anger on relationships.

In the heat of an argument, people say and do many things that they regret. Once words are said and certain actions performed, they can’t be taken back. All that’s left to do is to deal with the aftermath. The effect of anger that is poorly expressed is felt whatever the circumstances.

The most obvious effect of an angry outburst is the hurt that can be caused when painful and needless things are said and done during the outburst. In anger, we can wield truth carelessly, wounding the other person by hitting them where it hurts most. If anger leads a person to hurl insults or lay hands on the other person, that can cause physical and emotional damage in the other person.

If an anger outburst results in emotional and verbal abuse, that can have a profound effect on the victim’s sense of self-worth, confidence, and safety. In other words, it can diminish them as a person.

An anger outburst can affect a relationship by undermining the trust and intimacy within that relationship. Whether anger leads to hurtful words being spoken or physical violence ensuing, the connection between the two people is jeopardized because the sense of safety that may have existed prior to the outburst evaporates because of the destructive expression of anger.

If your spouse has an anger outburst that leads them to dredge up an old conflict or wound, or that results in you sustaining physical harm, you may find yourself on edge around them. You may struggle to trust yourself around them or become unwilling to let your guard down because you don’t know if that unsavory reaction will be repeated.

For emotional intimacy to thrive in a relationship, trust and safety are important. An anger outburst can undermine both by making the situation and relationship seem volatile and entirely unsettled. Discomfort, fear, and uncertainty are the enemies of meaningful relationships where a deep connection is shared between two people. An anger outburst can create a wedge between people.

Another unwanted but expected result of an anger outburst is that it may even be traumatic and triggering to be exposed to an anger outburst from a loved one. If you experienced unhealthy anger in past relationships, or if there were seasons in the present relationship where unhealthy expressions of anger were prevalent, experiencing an anger outburst may bring that past rushing back in.

What to do when anger affects your relationship.

An anger outburst can affect a relationship in deep and negative ways. The damage done by an anger outburst may take a concerted effort to undo. But if the relationship matters to you, putting in that work to restore the relationship and get your anger under control should be more than worth it.

Among some of the steps that you can take is making sure that you acknowledge what happened without making any excuses. It’s easy to try and gloss over our own bad behavior, especially if we feel embarrassed by it or perhaps even feel justified for how we felt.

However, while we are allowed to feel how we feel, we aren’t entitled to express those emotions in whatever way we choose. The Bible reminds us that “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20 NIV). We need to exercise caution over the reasons we feel angry and how we express our anger. Like it says in Ephesians, we are called to “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26a).

It is important to think through apologies after an anger outburst. A proper apology carries a healthy combination of sincerity in acknowledging that what happened was wrong and recognizing the impact it may have had on the other person. Though the person apologizing may be tempted to blame or point fingers, it is important to apologize separately from working on being understood or receiving an apology from the other person.

A good apology is joined to concrete steps to be taken to change behavior and acceptance of accountability in future. An apology can pave the way for healing to begin in the relationship. The other person has the opportunity to forgive you, but that is a choice only they can exercise. Your part is to apologize and seek to do better with the Lord’s help.

It is important to seek help when you’ve had an anger outburst, particularly if it isn’t a one-time occurrence, or if the aftermath of it has been especially disastrous. An anger outburst may be the creature of a moment, but it can be a sign of much else going on beneath the surface.

God calls us to seek help from Him. This may come through prayer, reading your Bible, connecting with other believers, and/or engaging in direct counseling. Nothing will be as effective as having the Holy Spirit at work in you.

Anger may be masking anxiety, or it may be the symptom of something else such as trauma, depression (especially in men), or chronic stress. Finding professional help from a counselor will help you understand your triggers and early warning signs of anger such as having knots in your stomach, seeing red, clenching your hands or jaw, your hands feeling clammy or face feeling flushed, breathing faster, and pacing around.

Christian counseling for anger outbursts will also teach you to avoid patterns of thinking that tend to trigger and reinforce unhealthy angry reactions such as overgeneralizing (e.g., “You always disrespect me. You never consider what I want. No one ever listens to me.”); jumping to conclusions about other people’s intentions, blaming, looking for things about which to complain and get upset, and having rigid expectations of others.

Counseling will also teach you ways of handling anger in healthy ways such as taking appropriate self-care, learning to focus on the present, and using humor to relieve tension. If anger is causing friction or creating distance in your relationships, you should consider getting help from a counselor who can help you bring it under control.

Photos:
“Couple at Odds”, Courtesy of Tumisu, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Crying Woman”, Courtesy of R-region, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of SHVETS production, Pexels.com, CC0 License

What is Forgiveness, Really? Forgiveness Defined

Facing the need to forgive someone can be a struggle for many, begging the question, “What is forgiveness, really?” How does one know when they truly have forgiven? Whether you have been on the receiving or giving end, consider these layers of forgiveness.

Defined.

There are multiple layers to forgiveness to understand, including but not limited to: letting go, forgetting, expectations, and behaviors. In a small, informal poll on forgiveness, it was shown that the definition varies from person to person.

The one common factor of each participant’s definition was that a change for the giver of forgiveness occurred once forgiveness was granted. Forgiveness can equate to some or all of the layers being changed.

Layers of forgiveness: letting go.

Letting go of something is a basic definition of forgiveness. This layer implies that once forgiveness is granted, the wrongdoer is no longer held to account for the wrongdoing. It can also imply that the wrongdoing no longer bothers the one who is forgiving.

That being said, letting go does not have to equal both of those right away, as it takes time for the emotional impact of wrongs stirred up in memory to lessen its grip on those called to forgive. Whether the emotional impact ever entirely goes away or can be forgotten is not predictable.

Layers of forgiveness: forgetting.

Forgiving and forgetting are commonly linked together. In Christian circles, they take root with principles drawn from verses like Psalm103:12, which speaks of God removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. The only trouble is, forgetting is not something that can be guaranteed.

In fact, it is difficult to prove that forgetting something can be willed. The more impactful the wrong, the more likely it is that it will be more difficult to forget. So with this layer, it is important to consider two things:

First, as a forgiver, be clear with yourself that remembering does not mean it is happening again, nor does remembering mean that you haven’t forgiven.

Second, as one who is forgiving someone, there will be a variety of ways your memory of the wrongdoing can be triggered throughout any moment in time (i.e. similar emotions rising, similar tones/expressions/circumstances, similar relationship dynamics, etc.). Take care to set reasonable expectations about your ability to forget.

Layers of forgiveness: new expectations.

What does it mean to forgive, really? Setting new expectations is an important layer of forgiveness. Some consider forgiveness to include the expectation that the relationship with a wrongdoer is perfectly intact as it was before any wrongdoing. Others consider themselves responsible to expect no further wrong will be done; otherwise, a lack of trust would demonstrate a lack of forgiveness.

Both of those views on setting new expectations have dangerous implications. It may be so that a forgiving person is to set new expectations for the relationship with the wrongdoer, but careful consideration must be made so as not to confuse forgiveness with blind acceptance and false expectations over what is not in one’s control.

Forgiveness includes washing away the expectation of someone needing to pay for a wrong, such as with a debt. In some relationships, forgiveness may still require expectation of change in the boundaries and interactions (i.e. prohibiting them from having access to you in the same capacity as before).

Layers of forgiveness: new behaviors.

Along the lines of changing how much access you give a wrongdoer to you once forgiveness is established, the behaviors you display toward this individual need to be considered in order to align with your forgiveness.

With the definition of forgiveness including washing away the expectation of someone needing to pay for the wrongdoing, forgiving someone necessitates the behavior of self-control on the forgiver’s part. This equates to not bringing up the wrong that was forgiven in expectation that the wrongdoer should feel remorse again.

Other new behaviors to be considered are whether or not you allow yourself to engage in a similar fashion with the wrongdoer. For example, if you decide to treat them as though they will never change from their wrongdoing ways, you may discontinue engaging with them or treat them as “less than” or with contempt.

It would be difficult to prove that these new behaviors, not to be confused with acting with caution, would indicate a heart of forgiveness. To differentiate between the two, a helpful question can be:

“Am I able to not hold them accountable while hoping that they change in the time I am separate from them, or am I requiring change/payment/retribution in order to let the issue go and condemning them to be only ever a wrongdoer?”

By asking this question honestly, one can get back to the heart of forgiveness and whether it has truly happened.

Next steps.

Forgiveness is as much complex as it is simple. It is defined as washing away the debt of someone who owes. This comes with a change of expectations and behaviors toward any wrongdoer. As Christians, we are called to forgive and forgive again.

Forgiving someone can be difficult to navigate for many reasons. There is wisdom in seeking counsel while seeking to forgive someone and managing all of the issues and emotions that come along with it. If you need support, reach out me or another Christian counselor in our online directory today.

Photos:
“Forgiveness”, Courtesy of BenteBoe, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Photos”, Courtesy of jarmoluk, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Guilty”, Courtesy of geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Boundaries in Dating: Christian Principles

Dating as a Christian today can be a hazardous exercise, with enormous pressure to conform to modern liberal norms. The Western world’s view of dating is primarily self-seeking, in which people date to overcome loneliness, fulfill perceived needs, and gain access to regular sex. In a word, there are no boundaries in dating.

As Christians, we are called to be “in the world” rather than “of the world.” How then should the way we date be different from the world’s way? What boundaries in dating should we put in place to protect us?

5 Suggested Boundaries in Dating for Christian Relationships

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23, NIV

1. Remember the purpose of dating.

The first of these five suggested boundaries in dating is to remember the purpose of dating. A Christian’s purpose in dating is quite simply to get to know if someone could be a suitable marriage partner. Therefore, first, make sure you are in a position (or soon to be in a position) to marry.

Marriage – specifically a marriage that glorifies God – is thus the ultimate goal of Christian dating. Dating someone unsuitable is not only pointless but also manipulative – if you don’t intend to marry them, you are effectively using them as an object to satisfy a perceived need.

2. Only date other believers and be honest about your faith.

Throughout Scripture, believers who want to get married are expected to marry other believers (e.g. – 2 Corinthians 6:14). This is another critical boundary in dating. If you use an online dating app, state your faith clearly on your profile. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time by hiding this critical bit of information.

If you meet someone in person, try to work it into the conversation early on and ask the other person about their faith. If a person seems reluctant to be known as a Christian, who hasn’t been plugged connected to a church for some time, or whose faith seems weak, these are red flags that dating should be avoided.

3. Introduce the other person early in the relationship.

In secular romantic movies, a couple will only introduce their boyfriend or girlfriend to their parents (and even some of their friends) after the relationship has become lengthy or serious, or even only after they are engaged! However, as Christians, seeking wise counsel from others on important matters like a potential marriage partner is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Introduce your partner to your family and friends early on in the relationship and invite input from other Christians that you trust. Often family or friends who know you well will be able to confirm whether the person is likely to be a good match or will draw your attention to some potential issues. These may not be easy conversations, so try not to be on the defensive but hear them out and remember the heart behind the comments.

4. Make it easier for yourself to stay sexually pure.

Among the most important boundaries in dating is staying sexually pure – this is reiterated in both the Old and New Testaments and remains a commandment for Christians today. Make it easier to avoid temptation by not living together, sleeping over at one another’s homes, or going on holiday alone together.

In fact, don’t ever be alone in private. In other words, only go out in public places or where others are around to help keep you accountable. Be aware of what you watch. Most of all, stay focused on the Lord and be an active member of a church that will support you as you date.

5. Put a (realistic) timeline on the relationship.

While marriage is not something to be rushed into, there is also something to be said about not pursuing a long-term relationship. If you have been dating for more than a year or two, it would be wise to ask yourselves honestly why there has been a lack of commitment to marriage and then either decide to marry or separate by a mutually agreed-upon date. Being stuck in a perpetual dating relationship generally gives rise to feelings of insecurity and unhappiness for at least half of the couple.

Seeking professional help.

If you are concerned about boundaries in your current relationship, consider Christian counseling in Huntington Beach. Talking through your concerns with a counselor at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling who shares your faith could help you to see any red flags before you contemplate marriage. Reach out to our office and make an appointment with a trained relationship therapist today.

Photos:
“Happy Couple”, Courtesy of Becca Tapert, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Loving Couple”, Courtesy of Ave Calvar, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Joe Yates, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Online Couples Therapy: What Is It and What are the Benefits?

Online couples therapy is a virtual counseling alternative that is conducted through a video conferencing service such as Zoom rather than in person. It enables you to meet face-to-face with a licensed mental health professional experienced in relationship counseling. You can use any device that has Internet access, such as your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Sessions are very similar to traditional in-office counseling. You can see each other as you speak, and the counselor can view and interpret your facial expressions and body language. Studies indicate that in many cases online couples therapy can be just as beneficial as in-person counseling.

Benefits of online couples therapy

Convenient. In today’s busy world, booking an appointment for two people to consistently meet at the same time in the same place can be a real challenge. Online therapy sessions can be scheduled for when it’s most convenient for both of you and do not require any added travel time to and from.

Flexible. Scheduling and length of online counseling sessions can be more flexible than in-office visits, and you and your partner can log in from different locations. This makes it possible for you to attend sessions more regularly and consistently, which is key to the therapy’s effectiveness.

Easily accessible. Online therapy makes counseling accessible to people who are limited by a disability, housebound, or just stressed by driving or going out in public. Not having to leave the house may also make it easier to convince a reluctant spouse to participate.

Not limited by locality. Online therapy makes counseling available to people who live in remote or rural areas and have limited access to local therapists. Because geographical location is not an issue, it also enables people to maintain continuity while on vacation or a business trip and is a good option for couples in long-distance relationships. They can attend sessions together even when they are physically apart.

More natural environment. Online couples therapy enables the counselor to gain added insight into a couple’s home life. Observing them in their home environment allows the counselor to learn things about them that they might have missed in an office visit.

Eliminates social embarrassment. Access to therapy in the privacy of their home makes counseling an easier choice for couples who don’t want people to know they are having problems and/or who would otherwise avoid it due to concern about the stigma attached to mental health issues. With the availability of online couples therapy, they don’t have to visit a counselor’s office and risk being seen by someone they know.

Cost effective. Online counseling is typically less expensive. Therapists who have fewer overhead costs such as renting office space are often willing to offer affordable treatment options to couples not covered by health insurance. You also save on the cost of time and travel expenses by not having to leave your home.

Takes the pressure off. Access to online therapy eliminates burdens such as the stress of spending time in traffic, trying to carve time out of an overbooked schedule for the commute, erratic work schedules, and/or having to make childcare arrangements if you have children at home.

If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment with one of the counselors in our online directory, please give us a call.

Resources:

Kendra Cherry. “The Pros and Cons of Online Therapy.” Verywell Mind. Updated May 16, 2022. verywellmind.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-online-therapy-2795225.

Photos:
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Imam Muhaimin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Looking Into Each Other’s Eyes”, Courtesy of Ryan Jacobson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License