How to Deal with Confrontation in Relationships

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. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

People were meant to be in relationships, and indeed, they are necessary to survive in this world since everyone needs care and nurturing for the first decade or so of life.

Relationships also define who we are as we get older. Children are affirmed, confident and highly motivated when their family relationships are strong. And as adults, the strength of one’s working relationships improves income while a solid marital or romantic relationship provides inspiration.

But despite the positive energy people may gain as they interact with the people around them, difficulties inevitably arise. Everyone is different and nobody stays the same. Eventually, due to misunderstandings or a change in views, conflicts occur. The challenge is how to deal with them in a positive manner.

Confrontation in Relationships

Most people dislike dealing with confrontations especially with people that they highly respect or love. The worry is always there that one might offend the person and possibly damage the close relationship they may have. This is why many prefer to just sweep everything under the rug, hoping that the annoying habit will go away or that the hurtful incident will be forgotten.

However, if not dealt with, whatever is disrupting the relationship may persist until there is no way to mend the hurt. Should that occur, even more disappointment and pain awaits. Moreover, continued bitterness and resentment prevent people from growing in Christ and moving forward with their lives.

Dr. David Schnarch of the Marriage & Family Health Center in Colorado calls this becoming “emotionally fused.” A person connects so many powerful emotions to another person that they can no longer separate themselves from them. These entangling bonds keep them from moving beyond where they are now. Thus, if one still values that relationship, something must be done, and fast.

For Example …

Let’s take for an example a husband and wife striving to live a Godly life together. Despite doing their best, sometimes there really are differences in personalities and upbringing. She may be very orderly while he is a tad bit sloppy.

After months of dealing with his sloppiness and seeming unconcern about him messing up what she took all afternoon to fix, she explodes over dinner saying, “Don’t realize how much effort I’ve put into cleaning up after you and the kids?! And now you are going to leave your socks on the couch and drag in mud on the floor?! Can you please put some effort into putting your things away properly and cleaning your mess?! It makes me feel like you don’t appreciate the things I do for our family!”

Now exploding at your spouse is not the best way to do things as there is a strong possibility that he will react negatively. But if he loves her, he will consider the context of what was said and make the proper adjustments.

So confrontation is a necessary part of a healthy relationship, but it needs to be done in the proper way and not through wrong methods.

What Should NOT be Done

While it is crucial to get to tackle the issue, there are some things that should be avoided.

1. Do NOT become passive aggressive

Many people wrongly believe that it is important that the “offender” knows that they are hurt, so they begin acting negatively in the hope that the offending person realizes the mistake and takes the first step to apologize and make amends.

Sadly, this method usually does not work out since people cannot read minds. Rather, new reasons for being upset with one another spring up.

2. Do NOT seek revenge

Something that is even worse than subtle aggression is revenge. A common saying is “two wrongs do not make a right” and that is true. Hurting the offender as much or even more than they hurt you will ultimately destroy your relationship.

3. Do NOT avoid the issue

There are those who choose to keep quiet instead. They tell themselves that they are simply waiting for the “right time” to share it but this time never happens. Avoiding the issue just allows the problem to build up into bitterness, eventually destroying what you have.

4. Do NOT embarrass them publicly

Some people do choose to confront the situation but with a jury of their peers, bringing up the hurts in front of friends, family or even strangers. Rather than fixing the problem, this just causes resentment, which strains the relationship even more.

What Should be Done Instead

1. DO set a time to discuss things in a friendly and private place

To make things work, you need to be proactive in mending the relationship rather than waiting for something to happen. And this is better done in a friendly and generally private area where both feel safe and comfortable. Invite them to lunch or to a coffee and then get to the point. Hopefully, the good ambiance will help soften up their heart.

2. DO consider preparing notes or a letter beforehand

Not everyone is blessed with great communication skills, especially when what will be shared is emotional and possibly quite painful. Note cards or even a letter can ensure that what you would like to communicate is understood loud and clear.

3. DO remain calm at all times

Since the objective is to fix an important relationship, it pays to stay cool and collected at all times. Being aggressive or even hysterical will not help at all.

In short, your heart has to be in the right place when you confront that important person. The idea is to mend what is broken (or bent out of shape) so that your relationship stays strong. So level with them and say, “I don’t think you realize how hurtful/offensive it is when you do “X.” It hurts/offends me because “Y,” and I’d appreciate it if you’d avoid doing it in the future.” Remember, it takes one to forgive and two to reconcile.

What if They View Things Differently?

Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, you may find yourself in the difficult spot where your friend, family member, or colleague strongly disagrees with what was shared. This is especially hard if they take the offensive, choosing to blame you for your skewed view of things or your supposed selfishness or oversensitivity.

Don’t Panic

Now before you start blaming yourself for the situation, recall the purpose of your talk. If you took the time to assess your feelings beforehand and were prepared for the encounter, then it is unlikely that you are wrong. If it was big enough that you wanted to address it, then there is probably truth to your hurt.

Listen Carefully to What is Said to You

Though it may hurt, sometimes what they have to say is also true. If their arguments against you are correct, then be willing to consider their hurts as well and work out a solution together.

However, be careful that they are not gaslighting you. “Gaslighting” is a term derived from the 1940s film Gaslight (based on the play Angel Street) in which a husband uses various deceptions to convince his wife she’s crazy so she won’t be believed when she reports strange things that are actually happening.

Rather than admitting that they are wrong, gaslighters try to turn the tables around by emotionally attacking the other in the hope that their accuser will change their mind. Their attacks are rarely based on fact or reason; instead, gaslighting usually takes the form of dismissive utterances such as, “You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!”

If gaslighting IS the response, then insist on them on hearing you out and finding a rational solution together. If they still refuse, then perhaps it is time to reconsider just how important that relationship is to you.

If someone is not willing to be adult enough to consider mutual hurts, then it will be quite impossible to have a healthy relationship with them. In such circumstances, it may be better to move on without them lest they continue to take advantage of you and pull you down.

What if you can’t just pick up and leave?

Things become more complicated if the offending party is someone you cannot just leave behind. At this point, you may think that YOU are the one who is unreasonable, believing that that person can change for you. But remember, there is a big difference between differing opinions and hurtful behavior.

Should this be the case, then you ought to consider getting a third-party perspective. A Christian counselor can help you both sort out your feelings so you both do not succumb to temptation and possible retaliation. In Galatians 6:1 it says, “Brothers if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual restore them gently, but watch yourselves or you also may be tempted”.

But should that other person disagree with the idea, believing that it is a waste of their time, then you ought to still pursue such a counseling session on your own to get the appropriate advice. Your counselor can help you find a better way of communicating your concerns to the offending party to help fix what should not be broken.

Photos
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Redd Angelo, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “West Sumatra Volcano”, Courtesy of Marc Szeglat, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Avoidance”, Courtesy of Mario Azzi, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Sea of Calm”, Courtesy of Daniel Bowman, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Save Your Marriage: Four Practical Tips to Strengthen Your Bond

Without question, marriage is hard. Of course, ideally, you will have many times of joy, fun, and fulfillment. But you will also go through seasons of pain, turmoil, frustration, and strife. When these times inevitably come, you need to make sure you are ready and willing to tackle the issues at hand.

Part of this effort can be to seek professional help that will help you decipher the key issues in your relationship, and will assist you in rebuilding your marriage into all that God intends for it to be. Fight to save your marriage — it’s worth it.

Nowadays, marriage is seen as nothing more than a commodity; something that can be thrown away with ease. As Christians, we must seek to battle against the soaring rates of divorce and must desire to uphold this wonderful, God-given gift with all that we have.

Practical Tips to Save Your Marriage

Tip #1: Make sure love is more than a feeling

At the beginning of the relationship, love is often felt in a powerful and exhilarating way. The Greeks recognized this kind of love and called it “eros.” A physical attraction combined with outward personality qualities sets off a spark of feelings as two people come together.

In his book, Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix puts forward the argument that people are attracted to those who have the outward qualities that represent someone who will meet all their unmet love needs. He also adds that we are prone to picking someone who has some of the negative qualities of those we love (often parents) in the hope that we can learn how to get love from a person who may be deficient in loving us as we want.

Hendrix theorizes that the attraction to overtly negative qualities is largely subconscious and has more to do with an innate desire for the wholeness that we may have experienced in our mother’s womb.

Time, however, is the great leveler. Marriage doesn’t always stay super exciting and fresh, and love tends to fade as we realize that not only is our spouse unable to meet all our needs, but they will also sometimes be a source of frustration to us.

Another Greek word for love is “agape.” This love is a pure and selfless love that gives itself away whether or not the love is reciprocated. This type of love is often associated with God – indeed, we see it attested to in the Scriptures.

In Matthew 16:18, we see this type of love in action between Jesus and Peter. Jesus gives him the name “Rock” prior to him becoming worthy of such a title. Still, Jesus had confidence in this man, as he knew he would be a rock of the church once he had experienced the full extent of God’s love through His sacrifice.

This is a fantastic model and message to apply to your marriage. Sacrificial love is about always believing the best for your partner, and loving them through their failures.

Don’t seek to focus on the weakest parts of your spouse, but instead commit yourself to building them up and encouraging them in their gifts and pursuits. Always show them grace, knowing that you are not perfect either! This must be done out of a deep understanding of the grace that God shows to us every single day. A belief in sacrificial and selfless love can only help your marriage.

Tip #2: Deal with your desires

Couples therapist, John Gottman, describes how marriages fail through what he coins the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

The common theme among all of these damaging behaviors is that they focus solely on keeping marital issues far from the emotional part of our inner-being. They are all defense mechanisms that fail to deal with the root issues.

In James 4:1-4, we read about a much deeper approach to solving relational conflicts. James explains how the root of all conflict is a frustrated relational desire due to one or both people refusing to nurture a healthy relationship with God.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” – James 4:1

Often, fighting is simply a result of one partner just naming what they really want. This passage teaches us to submit our desires to God first and foremost.

This process helps us to take ownership of our issues instead of constantly putting them on other people. We must have faith in God to meet our needs. If we interact with our spouse out of a place of ultimate trust in the Lord, our discussions and disagreements will become much healthier.

We must always turn to God and let him fill up where we are lacking. We cannot constantly look to our spouses for this – that would be too much to expect. They are going to get it wrong much of the time. Of course, we can improve our behavior toward one another, but we are going to mess up. When we do, will we seek to trust in the Lord’s love, or will we go on the attack against our partner? We must pray at all times, harboring a passion for the Lord and asking for more of his grace when dealing with our marital issues.

Tip #3: Put your marriage first, second only to God

Marriage is a God-ordained ordinance. The Lord expects us to put everything into upholding and respecting this holy covenant and union with another person.

If you want to build a firm foundation in your marriage, you must learn to honor and commit yourself to loving your spouse unconditionally. Intimacy in marriage is critical. Set time aside to connect with your spouse on a deep physical and spiritual level.

Life is crazy busy. Work commitments, kids, financial concerns – there is a lot to deal with. Marriages can begin to resemble something of a business arrangement – a way of simply getting things done.

Kids can also become a distraction, or even a focal point for the discontented spouse to pour themselves into. When children come along, be careful not to neglect your marriage.

Take good care of your kids, show them love and spend quality time with them, but don’t forget about your husband or wife! When the kids have all left home, you don’t want to discover that the intimacy in your marriage has been left stagnant and subsequently died out. So, how can you make your marriages a priority?

Here are a few more practical tips to help save your marriage:

  • Pray together daily
  • Regularly share what you’re learning in your spiritual walk together
  • Encourage your partner more than you criticize them
  • Seek out opportunities to build confidence in your spouse, help them deal with insecurity
  • Talk every day and plan regular date nights
  • Read books and take advice regarding how to improve your marriage
  • Discover a recreational activity that you both like doing together
  • Stay far away from adultery!

If your marriage is struggling for air and nothing seems to be improving despite your best efforts, it may be time to seek professional help.

Tip #4: Be the change you want to see in your marriage

It is easy for unhealthy patterns of behavior to become embedded within your marriage. When you are married, your shortcomings no longer go unnoticed. They affect the other person, and may even have a damaging consequence on your relationship. For example, a husband may be very self-absorbed and focused on their own needs, leaving their wife feeling abandoned and alone.

Over time, the wife will begin to feel disrespected, disengaged and unhappy. When this happens, marital dysfunction reaches a new level, and you really are in a relational danger zone.

Depression may come, anger and frustration may be exhibited, and the idea of splitting up may be considered. The crucial issue becomes, “How do I change a dysfunctional pattern that has built up in my marriage?”

There are ways of fixing it. First, you must take responsibility for your actions and refuse to blame everything on the other person. If you are acting selfishly, you can change this. Sure, there may be elements of this behavior that are caused by your spouse’s behavior, but you cannot lump it all upon their shoulders. That is not fair. You must own your shortcomings. In all of this, you must both seek to be honest and open in dealing with your issues.

Second, both partners should seek to respect each other and must aim to show each other grace as they push forward in dealing with their marital issues. If there is an imbalance in the relationship, or if one side feels unjustifiably grieved, it may be time to seek out professional help.

How Christian Counseling Can Help Save Your Marriage

As Christians, it is important to know that there is always hope for your marriage. With the right professional help, we must always have faith that the Lord can save our relationships. Indeed, marriage is a beautiful reflection of God’s gracious love for us, and it is highly valued by the Lord himself. You must keep this firmly in mind as you go about working on your marital issues – God is fighting for both of you!

Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.” Bringing a neutral and professionally trained third party into your marriage can help relieve tension and will provide you with essential insights into the dysfunctional patterns that have developed in your relationship over time.

With the guiding hand of God, a trained Christian therapist will be able to help you save your marriage and move forward with your spouse into a refreshed season of love, joy, and marital fulfillment.

Photos
“Trouble”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Agape”, Courtesy of Alex Ronsdorf, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “God-centered Marriage”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Resignation”, courtesy of Alexander Mils, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

What is Spiritual Development and Why Does it Matter?

Over the thousands of years that have passed since Jesus lived here on earth, theologians have defined spiritual development in a variety of ways. Since we live in an increasingly pluralist and secular culture, spiritual development can have widely different meanings depending on who is defining it.

A general definition to start with is that spiritual development is a belief in a higher reality, something that exists outside of the material reality.

For those who follow Christ, the meaning of spiritual development is more specific. According to Acts 17:28, “… in him we live and move and have our being.” Our core nature, desire for significance and purpose, and our sense of belonging are derived from God himself, as he transforms us through Jesus Christ and his infallible, unchanging Word.

Romans 12:2 powerfully exhorts us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is a concise biblical summary of the purpose of spiritual development.

The truth that comes from God and his design for us, change us from the inside out in everything we do. He has given us all of our intelligence, skills, and abilities, and he requires that we steward those gifts according to his will. The more we develop spiritually, the more we align our wills with God’s will for our lives and for all of creation.

To put it simply, we can define spiritual development as becoming more like Jesus each day.

Spiritual Development as a Process

Spiritual development is not an instant transformation, but a lifelong journey of maturing and becoming Christ-like. God provides daily grace and power to his children as he refines them into his image. In Scripture, we see God’s refining spoken of as a process or journey. Here are several passages to illustrate:

  • Jesus says to his disciples, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
  • “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
  • We don’t grow in isolation; we are sanctified in fellowship with Christ’s body, the church. “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, andteachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Spiritual Guidance in Spiritual Development

It’s important to receive spiritual guidance from fellow Christians, but this doesn’t have to take place in an authoritarian context. A spiritual guide should be a helper who walks in step with the Holy Spirit. Counseling and coaching can be contexts for this supportive role.

One area in which spiritual guidance is important is correcting inaccurate beliefs about God’s attributes. Ignorance and lies about who God is need to be revealed and refuted for true spiritual growth to take place. Believing the truth about God and understanding who he really is, allows us to be restored and healed when receiving spiritual guidance. God’s love heals us so that we can live for him.

In this setting, spiritual guidance helps to reshape our inner thinking and belief systems, which we then carry out into the world around us. God is not only our personal Lord and Savior but One Who loves justice and peace in the world at large.

As we grow in Christ, we will become more aware of God’s immanent presence and guidance in our everyday lives. In attempting to carry out his will on a practical level, he will be with you. His manifest presence can be cherished even in the day-to-day mundane tasks of life.

It’s important to embrace the reality of God’s immanent, caring nature for his children, while also remembering his utter sovereignty over every human issue, from individuals to nations to the entire created universe. He reveals himself to us by means of the Holy Spirit through his Word, as well as through our circumstances, other believers, prayers, and the church, guiding us on our journey with him.

Spiritual Development as Counseling and Coaching

One way to look at spiritual development is through the lens of progressive stages. Erik Erikson has popularly described the stages of a human lifespan, and we can use these to describe the stages of development in our faith. Christian psychologists Yvonne Bissonnette Tate and Stephen Parker have correlated Erikson’s model to a spiritual growth model.

When a Christian is first born again, this stage can be called spiritual infancy. It is characterized, just as in Erikson’s model, by the tension between trust and mistrust, or a strong faith in God vs. despair and sadness, and a feeling that God is unreliable. For a believer, this tension is resolved by embracing hope in Christ through faith, which will last a lifetime.

Erikson’s model concludes with the stage of adulthood, which in the Christian walk relates to spiritual maturity, that is, a Christian who has grown up into wisdom and sanctification. This Christian is equipped to be a spiritual guide to other believers as they grow in their own faith.

A Christian counselor or coach should be trying to help clientsto mature spiritually or reach the “spiritual adult” stage. Counseling can reveal barriers to maturity, and obstacles like isolation, misplaced shame, unconfessed sin, and unbelief.

In counseling, it’s possible to evaluate a client’s maturity level and stage of development, and then mentor the client in areas of trusting God, resisting temptation through his strength, pursuing him on a daily basis, and cultivating a love motivation to work for him.

By the power of his Spirit, God can use Christian counseling as a tool for growth in the life of a believer. Clients often find comfort in knowing their issues are understood by an empathetic listener, and they find encouragement as they are reminded of ways the Lord is working in their lives.

Spiritual Development: Purpose

Our ultimate purpose as believers is to glorify God by seeking righteousness found only in Christ Jesus. God has promised us that we will only find complete happiness in an eternal relationship with him. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). As followers of Christ, we should find our greatest purpose and passion in seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Again, we must remember that sanctification is a process. God’s love compels Christians to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). This is both our eternal destiny and our temporal pursuit.

Scripture portrays spiritual growth as a growing to maturity: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Motivation to mature spiritually comes, as we have seen, because we are compelled by the love of Christ, and also because we are called to put our selfish desires to death and clothe ourselves with Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

We can see a correlation with this death to self in the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous. All members begin by admitting that their lives are a mess and that they are powerless over their addiction.

In the same way, we cannot save ourselves from sin and its consequences; we are completely powerless on our own to live our lives according to God’s will. This teaches a theology of sin, which is paramount to our faith.

As believers, we will not attain perfection this side of heaven, and certainly not by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. The second step of AA is to acknowledge that God alone is able to do the work of restoration. Step three requires submission of yourself to the Lord.

Though obviously, not every Christian is an alcoholic, these principles are a fitting reminder of the fact that we are all addicted to sin. This addiction will stunt our spiritual development.

Addiction, in the Biblical worldview, is a form of idolatry and prevents us from giving God his due worship.  It can run the gamut from the seemingly innocuous (television, food, social media, or even idolizing family or a ministry role) to the illegal (drugs, theft, illicit sex, etc.).

To grow spiritually, we must pursue God with a heart of genuine worship, knowing that we are imperfect creatures and surrendering our full hearts and lives to him in every area. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

Spiritual Development: Purpose from Calling

It’s common for a believer to feel conflicted about discerning what the will of God is versus their own personal desires. A calling is one way to describe God’s will in an individual’s life.

Calling is defined as follows: “A calling is a transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness and that holds other-oriented values and goals as primary sources of motivation” (Dik & Duffy, 2009, p. 427).

The word calling is often used to refer to vocational ministry but also applies to any profession in which a believer may be engaged. This emphasis grew stronger during the Protestant Reformation when the reformers emphasized the doctrine that all believers are priests who can come to God on their own through Christ.

One study has found that men who decided to become Catholic priests placed a high level of importance on integrating their identity as priests with a strong sense of self.

We can correlate this to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers; Christians who embrace this doctrine can find a stronger purpose in their individual vocations. God’s will is transcendent, or high above us, yet it is also immanent, interacting with our personal identities and lives.

A separate study on calling and purpose discovered that people who believe God causes events also perceive him as having sovereign control over every situation. Trusting that God is sovereign helps us to perceive his will in our lives.

People who are able to see their vocation as a calling tend to have better outlooks on their careers and lives. But beyond simply achieving personal benefit, it’s important to seek God’s will in our careers and vocations.

We are God’s instruments in the world: “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

Regardless of a Christian’s particular job in the workplace, all of us are called to be instruments of justice and righteousness in accordance with God’s revealed will.

Discerning God’s will takes place in the context of the body of believers. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5).

A Christian counselor or coach can help you connect to a local church, and embrace patterns of servant leadership as you live out your purpose and calling in the world.

Photos
“His Word,” Courtesy of jclk8888, Pixabay.com, CC0 License;  “Worship,” courtesy of Zac Durant, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “On my knees,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fervent prayer,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Top Three Excuses for Having an Affair – and How to Deal with Them

References “Intimate Allies” by Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III and “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller

Marriage is about integrity. As a covenant first and foremost with God, one should keep that promise despite their spouse’s shortcomings. Marriage should be a journey about the husband or wife that you would like to become with God’s help. This journey should not be disrupted just because of dissatisfaction with your spouse.

Three (Sinful) Excuses for Having an Affair

Here are the top three excuses people give for having an affair:

1. My spouse let him or herself go.

Some people believe that the person that they married should generally continue to be the same throughout married life. They rationalize that if they knew that their spouse would end up becoming a lazy slouch or balloon into somebody physically different then they would not have gotten married.

But why do people decide to “let themselves go” in the first place? For many husbands and wives, this occurs because they feel underappreciated and so they are no longer willing to make the effort to look and act the way they did when they were still dating.

In many cases, it is a passive-aggressive move to show that they are unhappy with their partner. The end result is that the other feels that they are being driven away or they believe that they have made the wrong choice, so they search for someone more “ideal,” leading to that person having an affair.

2. I haven’t felt this way in years.

Blame it on Hollywood or people’s obsession with romantic love, but many today wrongly believe that true love should always mean having butterflies in your stomach whenever you see your loved one.

Sadly, this feeling does not last and neither do the romantic dates as couples, particularly married couples, choose to prioritize practicality over needless spending to impress.

This is why when a disgruntled spouse meets somebody new and those romantic feelings are stirred up again, they believe that perhaps they have truly found the one meant for them. Happy fantasies of finding their “soul mate” are brought to the forefront and they drift further and further away from their spouse and into the arms of another.

3. I don’t love them anymore.

Emotions are fickle. One minute you are on cloud nine and another you are down in the dumps. This is particularly true in romantic relationships that are not centered on God.

Once the romantic feelings have ebbed away and the annoyances begin to pile up, it is very easy for people to feel that the love is gone. The spouse’s passive-aggressive behavior (or even outright aggressive behavior) simply reinforces the fact that the love has disappeared, making the person open to outside temptations.

And that is often how adultery begins as that “other person” sympathizes with the pain and disappointment that may be going on in the now fragmenting marriage. As the two become closer emotionally, then the adulterous relationship begins.

What should be done? Choose to love them still

The abovementioned reasons to cheat seem reasonable in the heat of the moment. But when looked at from afar, they are weak excuses. While physical appearances are part of attraction, a strong marital relationship is much more than that.

We will all age regardless of how much we try to take care of ourselves so a couple’s love should be based on a stronger foundation than that. Spouses, however, should still do their best to look good for one another as they did during their engagement period. But it should not be the final basis for love.

As for romantic infatuation, it is a short-lived feeling. In fact, researchers have proven that such a feeling can only last for around two years. After that, romantic feelings fade and all that is left is a broken marriage and a sinful and doomed adulterous one.

And while it would be great to always feel like you are in love, in marriage, what is most important is that we fulfill our covenant to God and choose to love our spouse through thick and thin. It is this commitment to God and to one’s spouse that strengthens the bonds of marriage until such time that the two truly become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

In his book, Timothy Keller shares, “You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” (Keller 104)

Christian Counseling after Having an Affair

Having an affair is a direct violation of God’s commands (Exodus 20:14, Ephesians 5:25). Aside from the damaging effects on the spouse, children and other people around, the adulterers hurt their relationship with God as they pretend that He is not watching or they wrongly imagine that He actually approves of such forbidden love.

As Allender and Longman III state, “Adultery is like the worship of false gods. It allows for the passion that God intended without bowing the knee to the one whom we were called to love. Adultery is not merely sex with the wrong person; it is union with someone who will never require us to face our sinfulness or draw forth out glory so that we are more and more in awe of God. It is intimacy without commitment, flight from the struggle of intimacy without ever facing our part in the loss.” (Allender, Longman III 308-309)

Should a spouse be tempted to find someone new or should a marriage be on the rocks, then Christian counseling can help to repair what is seemingly broken. A professional Christian counselor can help both spouses to air out their grievances in a safe, neutral environment where no one is judged. The goal is not to find out who is wrong but to figure out how to make things right.

If you or someone you know is currently having an affair or tempted to run from married life, seek help soon. As creations of God made in His image, we are all meant to glorify Him in all that we do, including how family life is handled here on Earth. It truly matters to Him that spouses are doing all that they can to make their marriage work.

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3 Simple Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home

Getting marriage counseling isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you’re willing to invest in your marriage with the goals of achieving growth and a change for the better. Counseling allows for the pursuit of relational growth in a supportive context and a healthy structure for conversation.

Counseling offers a couple the chance to learn about each other’s thought life, personal history, and emotional worlds. It can give you tools and strategies for relating to one another, allowing you to forge a deeper connection, and opening both of you up to how the Lord might bring healing and direction into your marriage.

Counseling that takes place in a vacuum isn’t enough, however. There has to be a commitment to carry out what you’ve learned and to acton your new perspectives. This process is often encouraged by the use of “homework,” which is meant to help couples create new, healthier habits to foster intimacy.

3 Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home

Here are three couples counseling techniques that can be used as “homework” to help couples stay consistent with what they’ve learned in counseling sessions:

1) Emotional check-ins

The bond between spouses grows stronger when each offers the other focused attention. When we feel that someone is intentionally focusing on us, honing in on our feelings and wanting to communicate with us, we recognize that attention as love.

For focused attention to happen regularly, a structured habit should be formedof setting aside a particular time to focus on your spouse’s inner world and emotional state. The goal is for each spouse to feel heard and understood, leading to emotional closeness. These intentional moments can be referred to as emotional check-ins, heart check-ins, or connection times.

Couples should schedule uninterrupted time to talk and listen to each other from their hearts. This should be at a specified time and place, with a time limit (20-30 minutes is a good amount to start with), and each, in turn, should have a chance to share their current emotions and any relational needs.

One spouse should communicate his or her emotional condition, and the role of the other spouse is simply to listen well, interrupting only to clarify or mirror back what they’ve heard. Sometimes, a word list of feelings can help in communicating one’s emotional state at this point.

When the first spouse is finished, the other spouse should reflect back what they’ve heard and ask, “Is there anything you need from me regarding those feelings?”

This gives the spouse who has shared a chance to express his or her felt needs in the relationship. This allows each to consider and be aware of their own needs, as well as empathizing with their spouse’s emotions and desires, allowing both to feel loved, understood, and emotionally close.

2) Time-outs

In many relationships, one of the main goals of therapy is to teach healthy emotional self-regulation, including practices that can be used for self-soothing. The time-out tool is one such practice that is learned in the therapeutic settingbut is established outside that setting.

Sometimes during emotional check-ins or in the course of everyday life, one or both spouses may become frustrated. This is the time couples need a tool to de-escalate the situation and be able to clearly see the source of the frustration.

The practice of time-out can be used to de-escalate and gain clarity in a conflict situation. A time-out requires an agreed-upon decision to seek physical distance for the purpose of cooling down, but it implies the reassurance that the marriage and the discussion are still priorities.

This reassurance should take the form of a promise to come back and finish the conversation at a specified time. Used the right way, this tool can be highly beneficial for both spouses.

The best time to use a time-out is right when you notice a conversation beginning to take a turn for the worse. This way, hurtful interactions can be minimizedor avoided altogether. Time-outs are meant to build trust between spouses. This happens in two ways.

The first way time-outs build trust is that each spouse takes ownership of his or her own frustration or anger, and seeks de-escalation in a healthy and non-destructive way. The second way is by a spouse keeping his or her word to return to the conversation at the promised time.

The goal of time-outs is to teach healthy emotional regulation, foster emotional intimacy, and reassure each spouse of their importance to the other. The more often a time-out is initiated, the more beneficial this tool can be to a marriage.

3) Praying together

For couples who want to forge a deeper spiritual bond, the practice of praying together for each other and about their marriage can be a powerful homework assignment.

Prayer and humility are inextricably intertwined since prayer is simply crying out to God for help. Throughout the Bible, God calls believers to prayer, yet due to our pride, feelings of inadequacy, and even spiritual opposition, we often have difficulty with this discipline, especially in the presence of our spouse. However, typically, couples who pray together do tend to stay together.

The above are three examples of assignments often given to Christian couples in counseling sessions. These assignments are, of course, voluntary, and their effectiveness depends on the willingness of each spouse to commit to them.

If you and your spouse are interested in improving your marriage with couples counseling, please contact a counselor today.

Photos
“Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Eye contact,” courtesy of Jeremy Wong, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bench,” courtesy of Elvert Barnes, FCC (CC BY 2.0); “Fervent prayer,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Pre-Marriage Counseling Topics to Address Before You Tie the Knot

So you’re engaged; now what? Planning and preparing for your marriage (not just your wedding!) is the next step. Although you might find yourself caught up in the excitement and stress of getting ready for your big day, it’s important not to neglect the relational preparation you need to work through with your future spouse.

It’s vital to talk about the beliefs, expectations, and realities that will have an impact on your marriage long after the wedding is over.

Engagement is a time of joy and anticipation, but it can also bring out stress and conflict as plans get underway. So much energy can go into details related to the wedding that a pattern of neglect can form with regard to the relationship itself.

Premarital counseling is a good way to maintain intimacy throughout your engagement. It can help strengthen your relationship and facilitate constructive conversations and intentional preparation for the future.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Topics to Increase Intimacy

Discussing specific marriage-related topics can help you as a couple navigate the transition into marriage in a healthy way. Here are four examples:

1. Communication

Couples who struggle with communication may fear to seek counseling because it might compel them to talk about painful topics. But counseling can be a safe place to work on having open communication between the two of you. It’s a neutral, confidential setting to explore subjects that need discussion, as well as how each of you naturally tends to communicate.

We all have an instinctive communication style we prefer, based on our personalities and the way our parents and family of origin related to one another. We might think that our own communication style is what’s normal for everyone, but it can be shocking to find out that our spouse essentially speaks a different language than we do, and that’s considered “normal” to them.

Because of this, spouses often misunderstand and misinterpret one another just because of their different ways of communicating. There is much room for growth in intentionally learning how your partner communicates and how to speak their language. You can talk about certain phrases you each tend to use and what you mean by them.

Couples often think that their spouse should be able to automatically understand what they’re thinking or feeling. After all, they know each other so well, right? But this just isn’t the case.

We may develop an understanding of our spouse’s patterns over time, but no matter how long we are married, we will never be able to “just know” what another person is thinking or feeling unless they tell us explicitly. Otherwise, incorrect assumptions are inevitable.

When you don’t feel understood by your spouse, you’re much more likely to have communication problems or hurt feelings. As time goes by in your marriage, you’ll grow to understand each other better, but even then be sure to give each other grace for not being mind-readers.

The potential for hurt is actually greater when you feel as though your partner should understand you because of how long you’ve been married or how close you are to each other.

So engagement is the perfect time to start laying a foundation for healthy communication. Learn how to communicate your thoughts and emotions clearly and respectfully. Create habits of open communication, letting your partner know what’s going on with you, without assuming that they already understand.

Creating these communication patterns early on in your relationship gives you practice in handling conflict in a way that is mutually beneficial. Encourage each other and alert yourselves to potential communication breakdowns, especially those based on possibly false assumptions about the other person. Patterns of communication formed over a lifetime are difficult to break, so now is the time to adjust your habits of interaction.

2. Sexuality

In Christian environments, it may seem taboo to mention sexuality, but it’s vital to cover in premarital counseling. Sexuality is about more than the act itself; it’s a powerful instrument of connection between married couples, allowing physical and emotional intimacy to flourish.

Engaged couples often feel that they can skim over the topic of sexuality and that their sexual relationship within marriage will be effortlessly good, but this isn’t always the case.

Each future spouse has expectations, concerns, and questions related to marital intimacy, and premarital counseling is one of the best places to discuss these things. You can reflect on where your assumptions about sex developed (family, friends, education, etc.) and what expectations you’re bringing in to your marriage.

It’s important to discuss how you will cultivate your sexual relationship within marriage, along with any concerns or curiosities you may be bringing into it. Depending on your comfort level, set some intentional time aside to discuss physical intimacy and how it will progress after your wedding day.

Don’t forget to discuss the practical matters too. What about birth control? How will this affect your relationship and any future plans to have children? Also, consider privacy and how it will be to live together if you have not already cohabitated. It can be quite an adjustment going from having your own space, even with your family of origin or a roommate, to sharing everything with a spouse.

As a couple, what can you talk about now that will make these adjustments easier? How much privacy do you each prefer? Contrary to expectations for a perfect Hollywood-esque relationship, real marriage can be hard, and busy schedules can make it difficult to carve out time for a spontaneous, exciting love life. Although it may seem less romantic, it’s often important to be very intentional in setting aside time for physical intimacy.

 3. Inner World

This is an opportunity to discuss your desire for your spouse to know and understand you deeply. Although you probably have this desire, it can also be frightening to be known this closely. In order to be close and increase intimacy, vulnerability is required. You have to let your spouse in.

A way to start doing this to explore each other’s inner world. This means getting to know your partner’s hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, fears, and anything related to their preferences and desires.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman have described this process as creating “love maps.” Dr. John Gottman’s research has indicated that couples whose love maps are detailed tend to have stronger and more intimate relationships than those with less developed love maps.

This process of getting to know one another’s inner worlds is an ongoing activity that should characterize your marriage over the course of your lives. In the same way that a city changes over time, with new construction and expansions, our inner worlds do the same.

It takes work to get to know your spouse’s deepest desires, dreams, and fears, and when you do this, you’re creating your “love map” of their inner world. Love maps increase intimacy, because not only are you getting to know your spouse better, you’re investing time and value into the process.

Intentionally seeking greater intimate knowledge of your spouse should be at times that are relaxed, when both partners feel safe and comfortable (i.e., not during a conflict) and able to absorb what the other person is sharing. It’s a good addition to a date night. You can make it more structured by taking turns asking each other questions and discussing memories, struggles, joys, hopes, fears, and dreams.

Inner worlds are complex, layered, and only reveal themselves with time and effort. Life changes shape the details of our inner worlds. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman says, “If you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your marriage to lose its way when your lives shift so suddenly and dramatically.”

For this reason, it’s best to create the habit of getting to know each other’s inner worlds early on in your relationship. Then you will have the tools to learn new things about your spouse throughout your marriage, which you can add to your “love map” of them.

4. Conflict Management

For some people, talking about conflict might seem counterintuitive. Oftentimes couples have the idea that the less conflict, the better; if they just got rid of conflict altogether, they would have a much better relationship.

But this isn’t the case. Conflict isn’t a bad thing that should be avoided at all costs. Instead, it’s an inevitable aspect of every human relationship, and handling it in a healthy way offers a key opportunity for genuine intimacy.

Conflict is unavoidable at some level, but the way you achieve intimacy through conflict lies in how you deal with it. Equipping yourselves with healthy conflict management skills gives you a chance to resolve issues without hurting each other emotionally. This way you can learn to understand your spouse in a deeper way, without leaving scars from hurtful conflict.

If there is a topic you know is likely to cause conflict, learning how to approach it without being on the defensive is an invaluable skill. Conflict does not have to turn into an ugly argument or be avoided altogether; instead, it can be resolved in a healthy way, and this knowledge can make each partner in the relationship feel more hopeful and confident when approaching difficult topics.

A willingness to examine current conflict patterns in your relationship is a helpful first step. You can identify any patterns that are destructive and that serve to escalate disagreements rather than settling them.

Once you’ve identified these patterns, you both can work on changing them to more constructive ways of dealing with the situation, allowing you to resolve disagreements in a way that allows for growth and intimacy.

A Christian Pre-Marriage Counseling Perspective

A Christian counselor can help facilitate these conversations, leading to the best outcome for both of you as you work toward greater intimacy. Depending on which topics you’re discussing, a counselor may give you extra materials, education, or practical exercises to work on the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship.

Every relationship has both strong points and areas where growth is needed, and addressing these points early on will allow you to build a strong foundation of intimacy.

One of the main objectives of premarital counseling is for the counselor to help you discover the preconceived notions and expectations you each bring to the intended marriage. This is a way for couples to get to know one another and possibly grow closer than they have been before.

Vulnerability opens the door to intimacy, allowing a beautiful chance for growth and flourishing. God’s desire is for married couples to experience oneness and openness through being intimate with one another.

This sacred unity develops over a lifetime, as both learn to submit to one another and to Christ. He uses this journey to transform us to be more like Him, which is part of His intended purpose in creating marriage.

Please remember that no couple is going to master and flawlessly implement perfect communication skills, love maps, or conflict resolution, especially before the wedding has even taken place.

Premarital counseling is simply a place to begin, and to give you knowledge and tools to help you with the transition into marriage. It allows you to be more aware of patterns in your relationship and the tools you’ll need for growth both now and in the future.

But growth always takes time, and it’s very normal for a marriage to take at least a year to settle into a comfortable harmony and flow.  Marriage is a constantly-changing, ever-evolving journey of growing in intimacy, communication, and love.

The premarital counselor is simply a facilitator of discussions that will hopefully continue throughout your marriage as you resolve conflicts, get to know each other’s inner worlds and build a stronger relationship.

If you are engaged or planning to be soon, and you think premarital counseling could be beneficial for your relationship, let us know how we can work with you to prepare you for a godly marriage.
 

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“Engaged”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Conversation”, courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Hopes and Dreams”, Courtesy of Edward Cisneros, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Lightning”, Courtesy of Casey Horner, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

The Benefits of Seeing a Family Counselor

Information overload – two words that describe today’s world, with all the available resources online on just about anything under the sun.

Want to learn how to be a better Christian? Or how to improve your marriage? Want to be more productive at school/work? There’s a flurry of articles, websites, and experts available within arm’s reach that can get quite overwhelming.

While this information age is a great thing for this generation, the negative side is that it also brings about an unrealistic amount of pressure to produce the perfect kids. We know that this is literally impossible, but it’s still easy to get sucked into the idea that somehow it’s attainable. This creates big problems.

Priorities: Balancing Family Roles, Demands, and Contentment

How do you solve this crisis then? How do you find that delicate balance for all the various roles you play, remain content and grounded, with all the conflicting messages you are subject to? You need to prioritize.

God. He needs to be the number one priority in your life. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” It’s important to stay grounded in Christ first and foremost. This will keep your feet on the right path. Make your relationship with Him a top priority and let your children see this so that they, too, may take after you in prioritizing a godly life.

Marriage. It is often said that the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life, second only to surrendering your life to Christ, is the choice of a spouse. Choosing a godly spouse will enable you to raise your children in the way of the Lord and leave them a godly heritage.

This, in turn, encourages them to do the same for their own children. In effect, a stable, loving, godly relationship with your spouse has the power to influence multiple generations. So after prioritizing God the need to prioritize your spouse comes next.

This means putting your spouse before your children. If that means taking a break regularly from your parenting duties, go ahead. Make sure your children see you modeling a healthy marriage relationship early on. Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Set aside some time daily one-on-one time with your spouse and teach your children that this is your special time together and should not be interrupted.
  2. Intentionally schedule date nights – away from the kids.
  3. Plan a romantic weekend getaway with your spouse every once in a while. Arrange childcare with family or friends who may be able to care for the kids in your absence.

Boundaries

Boundaries are important. They provide guardrails for you and your family to know when it’s okay to relax and let loose, and when you’re dangerously close to crossing a line. Boundaries are essential for you as a person, as a spouse, and as a parent. It helps you protect what you value.

Set boundaries by taking care of yourself. You won’t be able to handle all the demands that life throws your way if you don’t prioritize your self-care. Your children need to see you taking care of yourself.

Whether it’s a healthy diet, exercise, deepening your relationship with God, spending time with friends, with your husband or precious time alone, let them see that you take care of you too.

Set boundaries with technology and social media use for yourself and your family. Advancements in technology have enabled people to be more productive and organized.

But if misused, it also has the power to drive a wedge between family members as you focus on your things and forget to enjoy each other’s company. So put limits where necessary in order to maintain healthy relationships. Have designated tech-free times to just enjoy one another.

Social media has many great uses – it helps you connect with people you may not get to see regularly and helps builds relationships; it also has its negative aspects- it can lead to unhealthy comparisons between your own life and what others project of their own lives.

Social media boundaries are necessary to strengthen trust, so it is important to establish guidelines with your spouse regarding what’s appropriate and acceptable when it comes to interacting with others on social media.

Children need to be aware of such boundaries as well, young and easily impressionable as they are. Talk to them about appropriate social media use so they will learn to use it in a way that benefits them, and avoid its pitfalls.

As a parent, you already know how important boundaries are for children. One mistake that some parents tend to make is not setting boundaries for activities and overstimulating their children, for example, swimming practice early in the morning, squeeze in a second language class after class right before violin practice, tennis early morning the next day, a third language class and drum lessons before dinner. That’s just too much.

Decide with your spouse how many activities you will allow your children to be in. Let the child choose for him/herself within the boundaries that you’ve set. When they know they have the freedom to move within these boundaries, they are able to relax and become less anxious. It’s important to remember that it’s actually okay for children to be bored at times, so don’t overschedule your kids.

Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter parenting, a term coined for the style of parenting where parents are overly focused on their kids, can cause children to be anxious. Focusing too much on them may also mean that other areas of your life, like your relationship with your spouse, with God and self-care, are prone to suffer.

Here are five signs of helicopter parenting as identified by author Meg Meeker, M.D.:

  1. Whenever there’s a problem, your child calls you. Every single time.
  2. Your child has a difficult time handling disappoint.
  3. Your child does not appreciate the value of hard work and tends to look for shortcuts.
  4. When your child has homework, you end up doing it. You also have a tendency to advocate on her behalf when you call the teacher.
  5. You spend a lot of time researching the best everything for your child – best preschool, best vitamins, best organic food.

Hal Runkel, the author of Scream Free Parenting, suggests that parents allow their children to experience natural consequences of their mistakes. Don’t always come to their rescue so they will learn to avoid these mistakes in the future.

It’s easier said than done though, as it can be instinctual for a parent to want to spare their children from pain. As someone once said, “Good decisions come from experience, experience comes from making bad decisions.”

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This verse teaches that parents should begin teaching their children the right way as early as possible, and not wait until they’re older when habits would’ve already been formed. You need to be consistent in the way you raise your young kids for them to catch what you’re teaching.

Allow them room to discover their own abilities and make mistakes. Don’t do anything for them that they can already do for themselves, lest you communicate lack of trust in their abilities.

For instance, if you tell your child to pick up after himself, but he doesn’t obey even after repeatedly telling him, you may have the urge to clean up after him. However, this teaches him that if he delays following you or doing his chores, you will end up doing it for him. So as long as it is possible, hold yourself back. Remember that delayed obedience is disobedience.

Some families still wake up their high school-age children to go to school. These kids were not trained early on to wake up by themselves, and so they face the consequences of not doing so.

One mom was even monitoring her collegiate child’s schedules, assignments and deadlines online, devising a plan on how the child should study and meet all these deadlines. In both scenarios, the children have not been taught nor encouraged to do things independently, and this presents a big problem for both the parents and the children.

If this sounds familiar to you, you need to take a step back. Calm your own anxieties. Teach your child well, and then trust his/her child’s ability to take care of him/herself. By doing so, you are showing your child that you have confidence in him/her, thereby giving him/her room to mature into a fully-functioning adult.

Right now you might be wondering why or how parents end up over-parenting. One major cause is comparison with other children. With the widespread use of social media and technology, it’s very easy for parents to compare their children with the parenting style and children of other parents.

This can lead to a tremendous amount of guilt, discontent, and anxiety. You begin to feel that you’re not good enough, you’re not doing it right, or that your kids would be better off with this or that. It’s not easy to overcome this kind of parenting guilt. But here are four ways, according to Christy Wright of Business Boutique:

  1. Remember that you are not responsible for everything, so don’t be a martyr. Let the pieces fall where they may.
  2. Give yourself some much-needed affirmation. How you spend your time – at work, with your spouse, with your child, are all important. But the most critical time you could spend is with God.
  3. Keep in mind that you are not perfect, and a perfect parent is not what your kids need. Kids need parents who are present emotionally and physically. To be this for them, you need to give yourself grace. Take time out if necessary, and enjoy your marriage with your spouse.
  4. Let your kids see that you are taking care of yourself. Let them see that you enjoy life as a parent, a spouse, a whole person. Make sure that you reflect the truth of God’s word in Psalm 127:3, “Children are a blessing from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”

How a Family Counselor Can Help

It is definitely easier said than done. It’s no small feat to get out of this cycle, particularly if this has been a long-time struggle for you and your family. If that’s the case, a professional Christian family counselor can help you get back on the right track.

There is absolutely no shame in seeking the services of a family counselor if it will better your family. Seeking professional help may be one of the best things you can do, as it will enable you to become not just a better parent, but a better spouse and follower of Jesus too.

Reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you think you could benefit from this kind of help, reach out today. We would love to have the opportunity to work with you in helping you and your family work through the issues that keep you from living the abundant life God has promised.

Photos
“Digital life”, Courtesy of Ewan Robertson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pause,” courtesy of Charles Nadeau, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Helicopter”, Courtesy of Marc Wieland, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Shame”, Courtesy of Sevenheads, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Common Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex and are often misunderstood. If someone doesn’t know the underlying issues, they can often wonder “Why does this person hate food so much that they throw it up?”

This might sound strange, but most eating disorders aren’t actually about food. People with eating disorders use it as a form of control. Though they find their surroundings uncontrollable they can at least control how much or how little food they consume.

How Do Eating Disorders Happen?

Family of origin

Eating disorders develop from a range of different areas. When a parent has an unhealthy relationship with food, this relationship can be passed down to their children. If your mom is constantly counting calories or obsessing about each morsel consumed, you might begin to imitate this as well. Whatever the case may be, eating disorders often run in families.

Stress

Stress can trigger also eating disorders. Even turning on the news today can be distressing, so you can imagine the daily stress that people face. If there’s stress at home, work or school, an eating disorder is a response to managing it. Some people overeat when they are under pressure, while others tend to undereat or not eat at all.

Culture

The media and advertising world are plastered with unrealistic expectations for men and women. People who feel the pressure to attain the perfectly chiseled body or flat abs are often plagued by an eating disorder. Their goal is to become like the heavily Photoshopped version of the model on the front cover of their favorite magazine. This is a body image that is severely distorted.

Trauma

Girls or boys that have experienced a form of sexual abuse in childhood can also turn to food to take control of their bodies or use it as a weapon to punish themselves for feelings of shame and guilt.

The Impact of Eating Disorders

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Over a lifetime, the following percentages of women and men will experience an eating disorder:

0.9% of women and 0.3% of men had anorexia during their life
1.5% of women and 0.5% of men had bulimia during their life
3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had binge eating disorder during their life

Source: National Eating Disorders Association

What Do People with Eating Disorders Need?

These numbers have little significance for some, but for those who struggle with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, these numbers are alarming since each statistic represents a valuable life.

If you know someone who has an eating disorder, you can educate yourself on the specific disorder, let your friend know you are there to support them and encourage them to make use of individual or family counseling.

Group counseling can also be beneficial if the individual is comfortable sharing in a larger setting. It helps for them to know they are not the only one working through the effects of an eating disorder. Knowing that family and friends support their recovery can make the difference in their growth and healing during their journey.

Eating Disorders are a Form of Addiction

Addictions come in many forms, including eating disorders. An individual can become obsessed with a certain number on the scale or with manipulating their body to look a certain way. A condition called “Body Dysmorphic Disorder” (BDD) can also be related to eating disorders.

Anybody can identify something about their body that might be considered a flaw. Maybe it’s a crooked nose, a lopsided smile or eyes that are different sizes. It’s normal to notice our defects, but people with BDD obsess over these differences daily.  These inconsistencies are prominent in their eyes and demand their time and attention.

Mayo Clinic defines Body Dysmorphic Disorder as “a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable.”

A person who is dangerously skinny can still look in the mirror and see “fat” which in reality is usually skin that has become loose on the body due to a lack of nutrients. This individual could look to cosmetic procedures to fix their perceived flaw.

The Need for Support

In Mark 2:4 a group of friends went to great lengths to ensure their sick friend received direct access to the healer. “They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.”

In a time of need, we need friends willing to do whatever it takes to see us get well. It’s important to surround yourself with a team of people who will walk alongside you during your recovery journey.

The team typically consists of professionals, including a counselor, dietician, psychiatrist for medication purposes, and support counselors for meals if the individual is in a treatment facility. Some people who struggle with eating disorders find it helpful to stay at a treatment facility for a designated period of time and others find outpatient care to suffice for their specific purposes.

Helpful Activities when Dealing with an Eating Disorder

You may be wondering if there are any activities that help combat eating disorders? Here are activities that have been successfully implemented at eating disorder clinics.

Individual counseling

Counseling is a tool used to discuss eating issues, body image issues, family history, and what your life looked like before the eating disorder. Freedom can be found during individual counseling.

Meditation

Prayer and yoga are both excellent ways to find peace when the world seems chaotic.

Exercise

Healthy amounts of exercise can boost your mood. Limiting it to three days a week, for 30-minute intervals prevents the exercise from becoming obsessive.

Structured meal times

Professionals can help you learn how to eat in a healthy, balanced way.

Expert assistance

Appointments with a dietician to educate yourself about food, including what your body needs, how much to eat, and from what food groups you should choose can also be helpful. In addition, seeing a psychiatrist for medication to treat any concurrent disorders that may be behind the eating disorder like anxiety, depression, bipolar, drug addiction, or a combination of different issues.

Find a creative outlet

Create something you are proud to display. Spend time reading an interesting book, journaling your experiences, taking on an art project, or listening to uplifting music.

Helping others

Helping others when you are becoming healthier yourself can shift your focus. Helping the next person behind you is one way to remain grateful for your life.

Prayer and Bible Reading for those with Eating Disorders

God’s love is neverending. There’s nothing we can do to exhaust His love for us. It’s natural to drift away from God, to struggle to feel His presence or to forget His promises for our lives. Here are some scripture verses to meditate on during your recovery.

To remind you how intimately God cares about your life

My darling, everything about you is beautiful, and there is nothing at all wrong with you. Song of Solomon 4:7

You see, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Luke 12:7

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

To remind you that your body is a vessel for God

Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

To remind you that temptation has an escape

The only temptations that you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

To remind you not to worry

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayers and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22

Keep these verses close to you. During moments of vulnerability or despair, you can remind yourself of the truth tucked away in God’s word.  If you, or a loved one, is living with an eating disorder consider taking the next step and reaching out to a Christian counselor. Freedom can be found only after admitting that help is needed today.

Photos
“Selfie time,” courtesy of CreativeWix.com, pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Trapped”, Courtesy of Mitchel Lensink, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Bible Study”, Courtesy of Ryan Riggins, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Pornography Addiction: 6 Practical Methods to Help You Quit

This article highlights several key activities that can help individuals find victory over their addiction to pornography. In his Sex Addiction Training Workbook, Dr. Douglas Weiss discusses six primary actions that should be assimilated into every recovering sex addict’s daily life.

While these methods are enumerated for those struggling with an addiction to pornography, they are easily adapted for other non-substance addictions such as gambling and shopping.

Six Activities for Overcoming Pornography Addiction

1. The Rubber Band Method

The brain plays a part in every addiction. Certain activities (e.g. watching porn, shopping, gambling) engage the reward center of our brain which releases the chemical dopamine, giving the individual a sort of natural high. This substantially increases the likelihood that the activity will be repeated, creating a threshold for addiction. Over time, the neural pathway in the brain becomes so strong that it becomes harder and harder to stop the behavior.

How the Method Works

Place a thick rubber band around one wrist. Each time you are tempted to engage in the unwanted behavior, snap the rubber band hard against your wrist. The pain stimulus thwarts the work of the subcortical, or impulse-regulating, part of the brain which was poised to reward the acted-upon impulse with a boost of dopamine. Developing the habit of responding to the impulse (e.g. to watch porn) with a snap of the rubber band essentially breaks the impulse-behavior-reward cycle.

2. Prayer

Recovery is an all-out battle and calls for unprecedented vigilance. Most of us try to overcome our addictions with increased will-power or vows to do better next time, all to no avail. We cannot do battle alone. Every morning, pray that God will give you His strength to fight.

Don’t wait until you feel like praying – you often won’t. Don’t wait for a convenient time to pray – you won’t find one. Just pray. Every. Single. Day. Daily, intentional prayer reminds you that you’re not alone and that you have access to supernatural power to overcome the addiction.

3. Connection

Addictions often plunge people into isolation, so connecting with other people is essential while in recovery. In the same way that soldiers fight in battalions, we are not created to do battle with addiction alone.

We need people we can call when we’re facing temptation – people who are safe, available, and not afraid to speak truth to us. In order to establish these accountability relationships, we must first humble ourselves enough to acknowledge that we need others. And then we must call them!

4. Reading

Because battling addiction requires constant vigilance, those seeking victory must make use of every available resource.

Numerous books on porn addiction can be found in the marketplace as well as in public libraries – even digital copies – which can help keep the mind engaged in the process of recovery.

5. Support Group Meetings

As we mentioned earlier, connection with others is essential to the recovery process, but something must be said for connecting with those who are really in the trenches with you.

Support groups and 12-step programs provide connections with fellow recovering addicts – people who have been where you are – which fosters a sense of being truly understood. Making the effort to consistently attend the meetings is also an important step in making recovery a tangible, objective goal.

6. Prayer

Just as you pray for strength at the start of your day, recovering addicts should end the day with a prayer of confession and thanks.

In that way, prayer acts as the bookends of your day and is a means of reflecting on how God has provided for you; it expresses your dependence on God for all things, not just what is related to your recovery.

Christian Counseling for Pornography Addiction Recovery

Christian counseling can be a powerful resource for those seeking recovery from porn addiction. If you would like help in applying these six methods to your daily life, let me coach you through your recovery.

 

Reference

Weiss, D. (2014). Sex Addiction Training Workbook. American Association for Sex Addiction. Colorado Springs, CO: Discovery Press

Photos

“Rubber band”, Courtesy of Neonbrand, Unsplash.com,. CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Jordan Whitfield, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Books”, Courtesy of Rendiansyah Nugroho, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License