3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

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

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

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

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

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

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

Compatibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compromising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complimentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Marriage Counseling

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

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8 Important Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions

As you approach engagement or if you are newly engaged, it is important to the start of a thriving and successful marriage to take time to learn more about your significant other. This often means having difficult conversations, talking about the future, and digging deeper into your past to discover how it made you into who you are today and where you hope to go.

It is better to have important and life-shaping conversations before you vow to spend your lives together. These conversations can help you discover any red flags or draw you closer to one another as you prepare to spend your lives together, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

Having important conversations before you wed can help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers.

Greg Smalley said, “Make it your goal to create a marriage that feels like the safest place on earth.” The goal of marriage is not to appear perfect all the time, the goal is to create a safe place for pure authenticity between two people.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

Here are a few questions to delve into with your significant other as you prepare to say “I do”:

1. What does a marriage commitment mean to you?

It is important to talk through commitment and what it means to each of you. Once you walk down the aisle and vow to spend your lives together, does that mean through thick and thin? Does that mean you vow to keep working even when you feel disconnected and distant from one another? What does that mean when one of you gets a job offer in a different place? Take time to talk through marriage commitment and why you were drawn to your significant other.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Every successful marriage is the result of two people working diligently and skillfully to cultivate their love.” Spoiler alert: marriages face difficult seasons, therefore having these conversations and vowing to put the work into your marriage will help it grow and thrive on a beautiful level.

2. What are your life goals?

You must talk through your life goals, not only so your spouse can support you, but so that you can support them. Ask one another about your personal goals, career goals, and spiritual goals. What dreams do you have for your marriage? Do you hope to retire to the Arizona desert and start a nonprofit one day? Dreaming big together can draw you closer and help you support one another now and in the future.

3. What is your financial plan?

The battle with finances and how to handle finances is one of the major causes of fighting and disagreements in marriage. Engaged and married couples must continue to have financial conversations and plan together. Sit down and create a financial plan. Put your expenses on paper. See if you need to cut any expenses so you are not living hand-to-mouth.

Take time to talk through the plan for handling money:

  • Will you have separate bank accounts, joint checking accounts, or both?
  • Who will pay the bills?
  • How will you handle disagreements about how money should be spent?
  • Do you plan and agree to have full financial disclosure with your spouse?
  • What kind of debt are you going into marriage with?
  • Do you have or plan to have credit cards?
  • What is your credit score goal and how can you work together to get there?
  • Will you have an emergency savings fund?
  • Do you plan to start saving for a home or another major first purchase together?
  • Do you plan to start savings accounts for your children?

4. What is your plan for living arrangements?

If you both have your own place right now, what is your plan once you are married? Where do you hope to live once you begin having children? Talking through your plans can help alleviate stress and begin your journey in the best way possible. Establishing healthy communication is one of the best things you can do for your marriage relationship.

5. What are your desires for growing your family?

Some couples wait until years into their marriage to talk about their hopes and dreams for a family. To avoid miscommunication in the future, it is helpful to just talk through what you pray for someday. Do you hope to have children? Are you wanting a big family or a small family?

Have you had an abortion in the past that you have not discussed with your significant other? Do you hope to raise your child in church? What are your hopes and dreams for your family? Do you hope mom stays home with the children or do you hope to continue working?

How did your childhood impact your hopes and dreams of having a family? If you were raised in an abusive home and previously felt reluctant to tell your significant other, now is the time. If there were parts of your childhood and upbringing that made you into the person you are today and hope the same for your family, share those memories and dreams.

6. What are your mutual expectations?

Talking through various parts of your life and relationship can help avoid major disagreements and fallout in the future. Just talking through mutual expectations for your marriage can help cut those disagreements and frustrations in half. It is crucial to know that couples will have disagreements. Marriage is a game of working together to find common ground.

  • Will you spend holidays rotating between both sides of your family?
  • How will you support one another through chaotic work seasons?
  • What are your hopes for physical intimacy?
  • Do you hope to attend church together?
  • What kind of relationship do you hope your children have with your parents?
  • How will you continue dating one another?
  • Do you hope to continue date night once a week?
  • Do you agree on time with friends – separately and together?

“Behind every great relationship are difficult and uncomfortable conversations we rarely get to see. Great relationships don’t just fall into our laps. They require people to move through their fears and insecurities and do the hard work to move wounds into healing.” – Vienna Pharaon

7. How will you resolve conflicts?

Having a plan for resolving conflict is one that every relationship can benefit from. If you are having a conversation that continues to escalate, how can you manage it before it spins out of control? Can you ask each other for a timeout to calm down and take a deep breath? Are you willing to get creative with your critical thinking skills?

8. What does your spiritual life mean to you and for your marriage?

I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. Philippians 1:9

To marry someone of like faith is the beginning of a beautiful and one-of-a-kind love story. Marriage, God’s way, is a marriage of forgiveness, grace, compassion, and unique and selfless love. As you begin to embark on your journey together, take time to set goals, pray for your significant other, pray as a couple, and let your faith live larger and louder than your fear.

It is important to realize before you say “I do” that marriage is a journey, not a destination. You will face difficulties. You will have disagreements. You will make up and work through disagreements. You will have seasons of disconnect. You will have seasons of beautiful and one-of-a-kind connection. Marriage is a beautiful ride and one that is worth the difficult conversations.

Christian Premarital Counseling

As you prepare for marriage, consider pre-marriage counseling to help work through these topics and to help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers. You can invest in the future of your marriage by attending pre-marital counseling with a counselor who wants to see your relationship soar.

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Married Life: The Mystery, the Magic, and the Mundane

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord,” says Proverbs 18:22. Married life is a joy and a blessing. Sharing that most intimate of human relationships is indeed finding what is good and receiving favor from the Lord. As humans, we are wired to relate to others, including in the context of a marriage.

When God created us, we were fashioned in God’s image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God, who is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is deeply and inextricably relational.

As creatures made in God’s image, we reflect that in our nature. No wonder we gravitate toward relationships with other people, and we continue to desire relationships such as marriage.

If the story ended where we left off, there wouldn’t be a need to go on any further. The reality is that people don’t get married in the context of Genesis 1 and 2. Married life is now more complicated than that. Ever after Adam and Eve and their rebellion, all marriage happens in the context and shadow of Genesis 3.

Adam went from calling Eve, his beloved (“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” – Genesis 2:23) to blaming her for his disobedience of God’s command (“The woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it” – Genesis 3:12).

Humanity moved from loving adoration to shifting blame onto the other, from being both “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) to covering our nakedness and hiding from one another and God. Instead of mutual care and self-giving, there is now selfishness, inordinate desire and seeking dominance over the other (Genesis 3:16). Something entered our lives and has complicated this beautiful relationship given to us by God.

Even though people get married in the shadow and wake of Genesis 3, the opening verse quoted from Proverbs still holds true. Finding a marriage partner is finding a good thing.

Reflecting on marriage while writing to the Christians in Ephesus, the apostle Paul recalls what was said in Genesis 2 and reminds them that when two people get married, something monumental takes place – the two become one flesh. But then he drops the bombshell that human marriage is an echo of the relationship that Jesus has with his people. This is a “profound mystery”, he writes (Ephesians 5:32).

As such, marriage is this weird mix of the magical, the mysterious and the mundane. The ups and downs of life touch married people in the same way as anyone else under the sun. Issues of loneliness, anger, fear, discontent, and anxiety beset the married in common with everyone else.

While being “magical” in the sense of being enjoyable, there is nothing magical about being married in the sense that it doesn’t insulate you from real life. While being special and a source of great joy, marriage, and married life is not a fairytale. Sometimes, especially for those with an idealized picture of marriage, this may come as a disappointment.

What is married life like?

It is good

As we pointed out above, marriage is still a good gift from God, even amid hearts and a world gone wrong. It is a blessings having someone to share life with, to pick their brain before making a decision, to be deeply intimate with them (emotionally and physically), a partner with whom to laugh and meet the challenges that come to us all – sickness, the loss of loved ones, losing a job, moving house and so much more.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Presumably, the point also applies when a couple lives together – they sharpen one another by giving each other wisdom and guidance to live life well.

Ecclesiastes also makes this observation about human life: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10). The next verse then goes on to say, “Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?” (Eccl. 4:11).

This was written before the advent of the electric blanket, but the point is well-taken. Having someone to share life and a bed with is pleasant. Many married couples can attest to the joy of having someone to pre-warm the bed and snuggle up to, and how the input of their partner has helped them to make a better life and business decisions.

It can be mundane

As author Mike Mason put it in his book The Mystery of Marriage, while marriage is a brilliant gift, a miracle even, it is also “full of awkwardness and indelicacy, as unromantic at times as a sinkful of dirty dishes”. Laundry and dirty dishes aren’t a myth for married folk, but an everyday reality.

The trash needs taking out; groceries need to be bought and put away; lawns need mowing, snow-laden driveways need shoveling; and if kids are part of the picture, snotty noses and dirty diapers are par for the course.

All of this can be very unromantic, but there is a beauty in the mundane that can still be celebrated. It is in these small, everyday moments when we can serve the other person, and see some of their best qualities emerging.

Forgiveness is required

Being close to someone else means that they get to see you as you are, the beautiful and the ugly. They are exposed to not only your frailties and inconsistencies but also your humor, generosity of spirit and much more. The weaknesses will often have to be forgiven.

The kindness and consideration that married couples show one another is a lifeline and the lifeblood of a good marriage. Without it, the constant drip-drip-drip of irritations with one another will build up until it’s unbearable. “Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

A Christian marriage, that is, a marriage in which both parties know and serve the Lord, is one in which grace flows from one partner to the other and vice versa, and in which there is an open-eyed understanding that there are two sinners in the relationship. No one person is to blame for the issues in the relationship, and both parties must learn to walk in humility with each other.

Growing together as a married couple

One thing is sure when it comes to life – people don’t stay the same. Yes, there is a sense in which people remain who they are through the years. However, we go through different phases in life, and we experience things that can change our opinion on matters.

The birth of children can change our priorities; the loss of a job can drastically change how you perceive yourself; meeting new people or reading new books can shift our views on politics or other areas of life. In all this, rather than growing apart, a couple can share in one another’s journey so they grow together.

The importance of date night, among other things, is to continue sharing life together and stay on the same page. Life can get hectic, sometimes to the point that a couple becomes like ships in the night – mere roommates and not life partners. Date night helps a couple to touch base regularly.

Ask one another questions about your interests,  what’s occupying your headspace; what your dreams, hopes, fears and so on are. In this way, you know what your partner is dealing with, and how best to be supporting them in this season.

Contrary to popular culture (especially idealized portraits of relationships in movies and songs), a good marriage takes work. We know that we are living in the post-Genesis 3 situation, and so this doesn’t come as a surprise to us.

Christian couples counseling

Our marriages need strengthening and for us to grow in listening, handling conflict and hardship constructively. Couples counseling is a great way to continue this growth and address any underlying unaddressed issues so that your marriage flourishes. Whether you are encountering persistent difficulties within your marriage or simply want to continue on the path toward a flourishing marriage, prayerfully consider couples counseling with your spouse.

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Exploring Personality Disorders from a Christian Perspective

Personality disorders are some of the most misunderstood mental health problems that a person can face. Not only is there a stigma to be faced from the general public, but from the psychiatric community as well.

Although attitudes are slowly changing, it has not been that long since newly qualified counselors and psychiatrists were being advised to stay away from people with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD).

An Overview of Personality Disorders

The most recent edition of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) considers personality disorders to be:

“enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts,” and “are inflexible and maladaptive, and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress.”

Personality disorders cause a range of symptoms that affect a person’s ability to function in their daily life and, contrary to popular opinion, people with personality disorders aren’t being difficult on purpose. A personality disorder isn’t something that a person chooses or decides to have.

There are ten different personality disorders and while their symptoms differ in many ways, there are some symptoms that seem to affect most people with personality disorders to some extent. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining friendships
  • Addiction

Up to ten percent of Americans have a personality disorder so these disorders aren’t rare. In fact, if you have 100 people in your church, statistically, ten of those people will have a personality disorder.

Types of Personality Disorders

There are generally three clusters of personality disorders (as described by DSM-5). These are:
Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders)

  • Paranoid (irrational suspicions and mistrust)
  • Schizoid (lack of interest in social relationships)
  • Schizotypal (odd behavior or thinking)

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)

  • Antisocial (lack of empathy and a pattern of criminal activity)
  • Borderline (impulsivity, black and white thinking, self-harm, manipulation)
  • Histrionic (exaggerated emotions, inappropriate behavior)
  • Narcissistic (high levels of jealousy and arrogance, grandiose behavior)

Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)

  • Avoidant (social avoidance, social inadequacy)
  • Dependent (psychologically dependent on others)
  • Obsessive-compulsive (rigid conformity to rules, obsessing over details)

Personality disorders are clustered in these ways because there are common traits that people with personality disorders in the same cluster experience. For example:

  • people with personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (cluster B) may seem to be highly-emotional and attention-seeking,
  • people with paranoid personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder (cluster A) can bedescribed as suspicious, withdrawn and irrational.

Causes of Personality Disorders

Research has demonstrated that although there may be some genetic predisposition towards developing a personality disorder, in most cases the biggest cause of personality disorders is severe suffering. This may include traumatic experiences, abuse or neglect and in most cases, this is experienced during childhood, when the personality is still developing.

Does the Bible Talk About Personality Disorders?

Since personality disorders weren’t properly recognized until the twentieth century, it may seem impossible for the Bible to contain references to, or mention characters with them. However, Renewal Christian Treatment & Recovery has actually identified a couple of biblical characters who exhibit symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Specifically, the “stubborn and rebellious son” in Deuteronomy 21:18 shows signs of having ASPD, and Gomer in the book of Hosea exhibits symptoms of BPD.

However, the Association of Biblical Counselors describes personality disorders from a biblical perspective:

The so-called “Personality Disorders” (i.e. paranoid, narcissistic, etc.) are simply descriptions of long-term behavioral, emotional, interpersonal, and thought patterns developed by an individual over a period of time. The Bible clearly articulates the influence of depravity and sin on a person’s behavior, thinking, and feeling. Therefore the influence of the “law of sin” must be a focal point for individuals citing these labels (Eph. 2:3). Following the flesh always leads to further corruption, death, and darkness (Eph. 4:22-24, Rom. 8:5).

Hope for Healing

Dr. David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), points out that while psychiatry often considers severe personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) to be virtually untreatable, Christian counselors have a different perspective. Secular therapists may give up on clients with BPD, but Christian counselors can lead people with personality disorders to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

The solution for so-called untreatable personality disorders is to bring Christ to the center, as Powlison explains:

“The people who get this label [Borderline Personality Disorder] are really stuck. These are deep, deep weeds to live your life in. You can also see that the solution, in Christ, (can and does, when genuine) cuts as deep as the problem. Because in BPD you are the center of a world that is wholly misshapen. When Christ becomes the center, the world starts to take on a completely different shape.”

Christian counseling offers a kind of hope for people with personality disorders that secular counseling fails to provide. Where secular counseling regards personality disorders as a fixed problem that can’t be changed, in Christian counseling there’s recognition of the inexplicable power of Christ to completely transform lives.

A Biblical Counseling Approach

Let’s look at a personality disorder from each of the three clusters but from a biblical counseling perspective.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

In psychiatric terms (DSM-5), those suffering from Schizoid Personality Disorder are reclusive, unsociable, loners who find relationships with other people almost impossible. From a biblical perspective, however, at the heart of schizoid personality disorder is self-absorption.

In other words, a person with schizoid personality disorder has made an idol out of themselves and everything in their world centers on themselves. They are cold and unsociable because other people do not matter to them.

This kind of personality disorder can be a challenge even for experienced Christian counselors because there needs to be a radical change in the way that the person thinks and behaves. For a long-lasting change, the sufferer needs to choose to love God more than himself and serve others as Jesus did.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Perhaps one of the most commonly-known personality disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder causes people to feel empty, experience rapid mood swings, and exhibit extremely disordered patterns of attachment. Suicidal threats are frequent, although only 10% of people with BPD will complete suicide.

In biblical terms, a person with BPD has a self-seeking way of life, is prideful, depends on other people instead of on God, and has a sinful view that other people should rearrange their lives to meet the BPD-sufferer’s needs.

In this case, the root issue is that the person with BPD’s identity revolves around their disorder. Therefore, the goal must be to put off this identity and put on their identity in Christ:

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:22-24

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

It’s important to recognize that Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is NOT the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder tend to focus so much on details that they achieve very little, don’t have time for friends, and are very self-critical.

In biblical terms, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a manifestation of ungodly fear. In Christian counseling, the goal is to change the focus from fear to God, as well as identifying sinful behavior that has resulted from ungodly fear.

Christian Counseling for Personality Disorders

While secular counseling is rarely successful in achieving lasting change, a biblical focus on changing patterns of thinking and behavior so that God is placed at the center of the person’s life is much more effective.

If someone that you care about is struggling with the symptoms of a personality disorder, Christian counseling can be the solution you’ve been searching for. Healing is possible when Jesus truly becomes the center of the world for people with personality disorders. Only He can break the patterns of destructive thoughts and behaviors at the heart of personality disorders.

Sources:

borderlinepersonalitydisorder.org/a-most-misunderstood-illness

David Powlison, “What Hope of Healing Is There for Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder” ccef.org/resources/video/what-hope-healing-there-someone-borderline-personality-disorder renewalchristiancare.com/2013/04/02/does-the-Bible-offer-a-treatment-for-personality-disorders/

Association of Biblical Counselors, “General Personality Disorder Criteria” christiancounseling.com/resources/general-personality-disorder-criteria/

Photos:
“Moods”, Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Angry Woman”, Courtesy of Liza Summer, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Devotions”, Courtesy of Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Relationship Advice for Men: How to Nurture Your Marriage and Avoid Adultery

Marriage is a gift given to us by God. As James says in his letter, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Like all gifts, it is meant to be enjoyed, but unfortunately, it can also be taken for granted and not appreciated for its worth.

Marriage is the joining of two people into one flesh. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This union is something that Paul called a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

The sad reality is that there is such a thing as adultery, which ruptures relationships and causes pain for everyone involved, and it’s the one thing that’s an exception to the prohibition on getting divorced (Matthew 5:32).

Adultery violates the exclusivity of the marriage relationship and breaks the covenant between the two spouses and God. There is a variety of superficial reasons for marital unfaithfulness, including dissatisfaction, a lack of sex, or coldness, to name a few, and both men and women can commit adultery against their partners. How then can men, for their part, nurture their marriages and shore them up against adultery?

Relationship Advice for Men

Love and enjoy your wife

Throughout the Bible, many passages speak to husbands, telling them to love their wives. The most well-known of these is in Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…” (Ephesians 5:25, 33).

If the husband and his wife are now “one flesh,” as we pointed out earlier, it makes sense then, that for the man to love his wife is to love someone who has become part of himself. The letter to the Colossians says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19).

Presumably, husbands being told to love their wives is something that needed to be said a few times. Loving your spouse means listening to them (really listening), being considerate of their needs, not keeping records of wrong, not being rude or self-seeking, seeking to protect and trust your spouse (1 Corinthians 13).

The Scriptures talk about enjoying one’s spouse. The Book of Proverbs puts it this way – “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19). This short passage talks about rejoicing and being captivated by your wife.

This is something one must actively do. It doesn’t happen accidentally; it is a choice one must make daily. The “lover” in Song of Songs waxes lyrical, celebrating his beloved: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves.

Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead” (Song of Songs 4:1). And he goes on to talk about her teeth, her lips, her temples, her neck, and breasts. This is a man completely intoxicated by and besotted with his beloved. His attention is fixed on her, and no other.

Be wise – don’t look elsewhere

The flip side of this is when a husband’s attention and affections aren’t solely focused on his wife. In our internet age, this is all too common with porn and illicit chat rooms.

The verse we quoted earlier from Proverbs goes on: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers…Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?” (Proverbs 5:15-17, 20).

Another passage warns “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife” (Proverbs 6:27-29). Entering an intimate relationship with someone other than your wife can lead to tremendous pain for everyone involved; as alluring as it may seem, it’s just not worth it.

Infidelity isn’t just about sex, it can be about emotional connection too. Sometimes it may seem like someone at work is a better listener than your spouse, and you unburden your problems to her. That likely is crossing a boundary. It doesn’t have to become sexual before it becomes a problem.

How do you know your relationship with another woman is a problem? When you begin to hang out where you know you shouldn’t or send texts and messages you then proceed to hide from your wife or delete because you know the content is salacious or suggestive, there’s a problem. Deep emotional and physical bonds are meant to be forged with your spouse. Confide in a therapist, your pastor, or a relative, if speaking to your spouse about an issue is difficult.

In the book of wisdom called Proverbs, Wisdom is pictured as a woman who calls out in the street, urging people to heed her voice so they may live rich, full lives. Heed Wisdom’s call, and don’t be fooled – you’ll get burned if you seek emotional or physical succor elsewhere then your spouse.

“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end, she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:3-4). Stolen kisses seem sweet, but there’s a price to pay. The detritus of such liaisons is often broken marriages, and children caught in the mess.

Mind who you hang with

Some friends. Are. The. Worst. They don’t encourage right behavior and instead enable their friend’s worst impulses. “Do not be misled,” Paul tells a young church, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Some friends won’t caution you when you’re going astray, nor will they invest in your marriage by encouraging you to be a better husband.

While such a move will likely be painful, for the sake of your marriage, the influence of such friends, which corrupts good morals, needs to dwindle. Rather, cultivate godly friendships that try to help you flourish in your marriage and other relationships.

The heart of the matter

The “lure” of other women starts in our own hearts and that’s where the issue of dissatisfaction must be addressed. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says, “…anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The hard truth to confront is that temptation is not merely something out there, it’s something in us.

James puts it this way: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15).

The hope we have is that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Conclusion

By the grace of God, our mistakes are not etched in stone. Consulting with a Christian marriage counselor can help you open communication with your spouse, set boundaries with others, and nurture your marriage toward health. If you’re looking for additional relationship advice for men, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory.

Photos:
“Fight”, Courtesy of Alex Green, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Piggy Back”, Courtesy of Josh Willink, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Praying”, Courtesy of Paulo Márcio Dos, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Socks”, Courtesy of Rene Asmussen, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Hope for Newlyweds: When the Honeymoon Phase Ends

To be a newlywed is often referred to as “the honeymoon phase” of a relationship. It is often considered to last somewhere between six months and two years. It is a period where it feels like you are living in a romantic movie. It might feel like pure bliss, being head over heels in love, and seeing the other person as a dream too good to be true.

“To fully know and still fully love, is the primary aim of marriage.” Fierce Marriage

The honeymoon period might mean constant togetherness, a high of physical intimacy, and make you wonder if your spouse could ever do wrong in your eyes. There might be a literal hormonal spike as you get married and experience the wedded bliss of waking up to the love of your life, spending every night together, and getting to be with them in the mundane moments.

You realize that your love does not always need the big production that dating involved. However, we cannot always put on our best self. Marriage brings out the raw and exposed parts that we try to hide when dating.

While the honeymoon period is a time where one should genuinely soak in the love and affection of your new spouse and engage in romantic gestures, reality soon sets in:

  • Couples might begin disagreeing over finances.
  • Jobs might become extremely stressful and eat away your free time.
  • You might start thinking about when to start a family and begin to have disagreements over your ideal timings.
  • There might be an overbearing mother-in-law that overwhelms the couple or brings about disagreements.
  • You might be trying to figure out a proper balance for working out, staying late after work to catch up on some projects, spending quality time together, and still trying to invest in the friendships outside of your relationship.

How to Move Forward After the Honeymoon Phase

There are several things to consider as you wonder why the honeymoon phase is ending and how to move forward in your relationship rather than wallow in defeat:

Realize you took an oath to put in the work.

You vowed to love one another through sickness and in health. For richer or for poorer. For better and for worse. You vowed to love one another when you wake up with morning breath, when one of you does not replenish the toilet paper in the bathroom, when you disagree over which side of the family you should visit at Christmas, and how to handle the order of priority in your finances. Marriage is working through disagreements, not running at the first sight of them.

“Great marriages don’t happen by luck or by accident. They are the result of a consistent investment of time, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, affection, prayer, mutual respect, and a rock-solid commitment between a husband and a wife.” – Dave Willis

I urge you to renew that vow mentally every single day. Vow to be there if your spouse has the flu and is begging for some warm soup. Vow to be there when your spouse feels defeated by a lack of work promotions. Vow to be there when your spouse loses their cool and begs for your forgiveness because their voice escalated, and frustration got the best of their tongue.

Vow to hold hands and wipe away each other’s tears when one or both of you experiences grief and loss.

Love is more than a grand romantic gesture or butterflies soaring in your stomach. It is choosing one another every single day, regardless of where life and circumstances take you.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Be willing to say and talk about the difficult things.

Once the honeymoon period comes to a halt, raw and vulnerable conversations need to be at the forefront of your marriage. To continue thriving in your relationship, you cannot stay dormant. You must keep looking forward, even when you are unsure of what forward looks like.

“Like a soft, deep layer of mulch, transparency in your marriage will keep most weed seeds dormant and unable to sprout.” – Barbara Rainey

Transparency is one of the biggest ways to overcome threats to your marriage.

Start by asking simple questions:

  • What is something I can do to make you feel loved?
  • What is one thing you love about our relationship?
  • What is something we can do better as a couple to continue growing?
  • What is something I do that irritates you?
  • Do you feel like my family is supportive of our marriage/why?
  • Do you feel like we spend quality time together?
  • What is something we can do to improve our communication?

Take captive any negative thoughts about your spouse.

  • “Maybe this isn’t your soul mate.”
  • “Did I marry the right person?”
  • “If they really loved me, they would_______”
  • “Why don’t they ever listen to me?”
  • “If he/she loved me, they would want to hang out with me and not their work friends.”
  • “They do not appreciate me and all of the things I do.”
  • “No one else would put up with this.”

Take those thoughts that creep into your mind captive. Our thinking patterns decide our actions and reactions. Therefore, the things we think about our spouse can tragically affect the way we interact with them and prioritize them. We must fix our minds on Christ and try to focus on the things we love about our spouse rather than nitpick everything we think they should be doing.

“Taking thoughts captive means controlling them instead of letting them control you.” – Priscilla Shirer

Do not let the negativity of the world influence your marriage. If a friend or family member is trying to get you to bash your spouse, it might be time to address those negative patterns. If you are constantly arguing with your spouse in your head or nitpicking at all their quirks, it is time to refocus your thoughts and reevaluate your mindset.

Prioritize your relationship with Christ.

“God’s Word is the perfect guidebook for marriage, and those who live by His Word will reap the blessings that obedience brings.” – Darlene Schacht

If you want your marriage to thrive, the secret ingredient is not how lavish your lifestyle is or whether he brings you fresh flowers every week. Marriage should be centered on a relationship with Christ, focusing on the qualities of Christ.

We need to rid ourselves of the things the world focuses on, like money, physique, and grand gestures. Instead, we must bathe ourselves in grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and remain true to our vows. Marriage is not threatening divorce after one disagreement, it is vowing to put the work in every single day.

Keep finding those flickers of excitement.

The honeymoon phase does not have to be over forever. You can find creative ways to bring those flickers of excitement to your relationship in any phase of marriage. Whether you have been married one year or twenty years, you want to continue igniting that flame, having fun, going on dates, and making intimacy a priority.

  • End every day with “I love you”.
  • Greet your spouse at the door with a hug and kiss.
  • Never go to bed angry.
  • Continue dating one another.
  • Pray together.
  • Save money.
  • Establish healthy habits as a couple and as individuals.
  • Attend church together.
  • Do a Bible study together.
  • Have deep and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.
  • Dream together.
  • Plan for the future.
  • Attend counseling together as an investment in your marriage now and in the future.

Marriage counseling does not have to be a last resort for your marriage when it is struggling to move forward after the honeymoon phase. Counseling can be an investment at the start of your marriage to establish healthy patterns, learn effective communication patterns, learn more about each other and your love languages, and show your spouse that you are in it for the long run.

Photos:
“Honeymoon Hideaway”, Courtesy of Roberto Nickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Rings”, Courtesy of Marcos Paulo Prado, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bride and Groom in a Canoe”, Courtesy of Drew Dau, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “With All Your Heart”, Courtesy of Brittney Burnett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Opening New Doors: Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication skills, when strengthened, can help you express your feelings clearly and precisely. You can use these lifelong skills to move further up the career ladder, express yourself to your spouse or children, make new friends, and network with people who can help your cause.

The good news is that most people are not born with good communication skills. It’s a skill you can begin mastering today to effectively and assertively convey what you mean.

The Different Types of Communication

There are several different types of communication, but they all boil down to verbal, nonverbal (actions), written, and visual. These skills also referred to as people skills, can take you far.

Unfortunately, some people find it difficult to communicate with people and allow others to control and manipulate them. By learning it’s okay to speak up (and how to do so constructively), you can develop self-confidence.

The types of communication are:

Verbal – Verbal communication uses spoken language to convey meaning to others.

Nonverbal (actions) – Nonverbal communication includes nodding, shaking your head, and other actions such as crossing your arms over your chest (body language), facial expressions, or slamming doors when angry.

Written – Written communication includes books, letters, emails, newspapers, text messages, and other printed or digital words.

Visual – Visual communication concentrates on the things we can see and understand as an outlet in expressing feelings and thoughts. This includes artwork, graphs, charts, drawings, and pictures.

Some people learn better when several of these types of communication are combined. For example, you might be more comfortable learning new information using written and visual materials. And it might be easier for you to express your thoughts of very detailed, personal matters through written material (a journal) rather than talking (verbal communication) with someone.

Another type of communication frequently forgotten, but possibly the most important skill is active listening. Active listening is trying to not only hear the person but to understand them. This means not losing your focus to distractions or thinking about how you are going to respond to their comments. While active listening, you nod or shake your head, speak when necessary, and show empathy.

Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Perhaps you do well with one or two public communication skills but are sorely lacking in the others. You can learn how to develop good communication skills with a little practice. You can begin by implementing a few of the suggestions listed below.

If you are interested in learning more about how to strengthen your communication skills, you can find printed books and eBooks on the subject as well as courses that cover interpersonal and public communication.

How to Develop Active Listening Skills

Developing the ability to actively listen to someone requires you to focus solely on the person speaking. If the person is sharing an emotional story with you, be sure to respond as necessary with kindness and empathy. This is not the time to judge the person in front of you, but to try to understand what they are going through or the instructions they are giving you.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up on our responses to the other person that we simply stop actively listening. Take your time in your response if you need to. You want the other person to feel important and heard.

How to Develop Verbal Communication Skills

To truly improve your verbal skills, you should expose yourself to a wide range of vocabulary. Read books (both printed and eBooks) in various genres as well as nonfiction. Consider joining a book club to discuss insights on a book to improve critical thinking skills or join a debate team to pick up how to form an argumentative opinion.

Speak precisely and with confidence. It is not necessary to bog down a conversation with five-syllable words as most people will come away from the exchange either intimidated or bored.

If you are nervous about meeting a new acquaintance, approach the person with a kind smile, compliment them, and ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and what is important to them. Start with asking about their family, career, hobbies and interests, and what they want to do with their life. As people confide, they will begin to trust you because you care to know about them.

How to Develop Nonverbal Communication Skills

Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly giving away your thoughts and feelings with body language and facial expressions. For example, crossing your arms over your chest while talking to someone is considered a defensive move for protection. Do you feel threatened by what they are saying? Do you find their comments hurtful?

Strive to be mindful of your facial expressions and posture when you are talking to someone. Smiling and maintaining a relaxed and open posture will translate to others that you are a warm and friendly person with whom they can spend time conversing.

How to Develop Written Communication Skills

The written word surrounds us daily with billboards, newspapers, chat messages, text messages, and emails. How many emails and texts do you send daily? It is important to improve your writing skills, so you convey the correct meaning and induce the appropriate response.

People today have shorter attention spans due to the constant barrage of distractions. Keep your sentences short and cut out any flowery words. Make sure you reread your material for clarity and accuracy. If writing seems awkward to you, try journaling. The act of recording your thoughts and emotions is simply the practice of communicating with yourself.

How to Develop Visual Communication Skills

You can use visual images to communicate with others. Most people remember pictures and videos even if they don’t remember the words they read. You can use visuals to help you remember important things.

For example, a student might draw a diagram, breaking down a difficult topic for a class. Or, a mother might create a chores graph for her children to use to make the daily tasks fun.

If you want to express your beliefs and thoughts to others using social media, you can create videos or pictures. You might find it easier to record and edit a video of you talking than speaking in-person to a group of people.

Social Communication Disorder

A child who cannot seem to express himself with the appropriate verbal and nonverbal cues may be tested by their pediatrician for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If autism is ruled out, the physician may diagnose the child with Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Children demonstrating signs of SCD may have trouble responding appropriately to others, misjudging when to take their turn speaking, expressing their feelings verbally, and using language to ask questions and hold conversations.

Children with Social Communication Disorder may also have another mental health condition that requires therapy. Speak with your child’s pediatrician about adding the professional services of a speech-language pathologist, either at school or home. Some states provide programs, such as “Birth to 3,” to help babies and toddlers to overcome speech disorders and delays.

There are things you can do to help your child improve his communication skills. Make reading a priority in your home. Not only will your child enlarge his vocabulary, but he will learn to think critically and form opinions.

When possible, combine written and visual materials to teach your child about important topics. Many children are visual learners and can pick up a subject quicker with images.

Arrange for your child to spend time with other children and help him get started with conversations by asking questions. Once he sees that he has common interests as the other children, it may be easier for him to hold the conversation.

One Final Word

Communication skills are vital in every area of life. Whether you speak to a room full of peers, work behind a desk answering phones and sending emails, or need to assert your self-worth, mastering the skills to effectively communicate will serve you for the rest of your life. It’s a skill that no one can take from you.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Phone Call”, Courtesy of Kevin Laminto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chatting”, Courtesy of Charles Deluvio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Porn: The World’s Most Powerful Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Steps to Overcoming the Different Types of Panic Attacks

Imagine waking up at 2:00 a.m. with hundreds of thoughts swirling around in your brain. The thoughts are piercing. It is as if your mind is churning in a blender that will not turn off. It is so loud, almost as if it is jammed in an airhorn that doesn’t stop.

You are thinking about a project you forgot to do, a text message (to a sensitive friend) that you forgot to respond to earlier in the day, and worrisome thoughts on a medical test you are awaiting begin to escalate. Your fingers suddenly become tingly, legs become weak, and your breathing becomes labored.

Imagine preparing to head to a social event, but a million thoughts begin to steal your excitement. Instead of the excitement to get out of the house and mingle with friends, obsessive worry takes over.

You worry about being an awkward conversationalist and about potential societal threats. You worry about what you are wearing and wonder if it is the right attire for the event. Your palms begin to sweat, your breathing becomes more intense, your heart begins to race – why does this keep happening?

If these scenarios sound familiar, you or someone you know may be suffering from one of several different types of panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense feeling of threat or danger. It is the feeling of something terrible coming. Different types of panic attacks can happen regularly or can appear out of nowhere without the person’s realization as to what is causing it.

Sophie is an eighteen-year-old who struggles with social anxiety. Every time she enters a crowded room, she begins looking for the EXIT sign. She imagines all the worst-case scenarios. She plans multiple strategies in case something happens.

What if a fight breaks out? What if she sees an ex-boyfriend? She wonders what everyone thinks of her. Does she have something in her teeth? Are her clothes stylish enough, or are they too “last season”? Will someone think she is a bad Christian because she is beginning to panic?

As her breathing becomes labored, she suddenly gets chills, experiences heart palpitations, and becomes nauseous. Sophie is struggling with social anxiety. She is unsure of how to cope with these feelings, which causes her body to respond in this manner.

Anxiety can have a strong and paralyzing effect on one’s body. It is important to realize if this is happening to you so you can begin to pinpoint the triggers and working through different coping mechanisms.

Types of Panic Attacks

There are several types of panic attacks:

  • A cued panic attack is one of which you are aware. You may be very aware that you have social anxiety and what situations set your internal alarm off. You may avoid social gatherings altogether because of these unwanted intense feelings.
  • Non-cued panic attacks are those for which you are not prepared. You do not know why you are having them, and you are unsure of how to narrow down what is triggering you so you can stop them from happening. It may be something below the surface of which you are unaware.
  • Agoraphobia is the fear of going into crowded places. You may avoid going to the mall, movie theater, or other crowded and tight spaces because of a fear of not being able to control a social situation or feeling trapped/helpless.
  • Anticipatory anxiety is the fear of having a panic attack. You may avoid situations that you know have previously caused intense feelings of anxiety or panic.

The first step in the process of dealing with and processing your anxiety is to figure out your triggers. What is causing you anxiety? When is it happening? Who is it happening around? Why is it happening?

Steps to Overcome Panic Attacks

If you are struggling with intense feelings of impending danger, it is important to begin narrowing your signs and symptoms down so you can take proactive steps to improve your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed about what you are feeling.

The first step is to know that you are not alone. Do not feel like you are less-than or falling short. The Bible reminds us that God wants to walk hand-in-hand with us on this journey of life. He does not promise that the road will be easy, but He promises that He will walk alongside us. He will comfort us in times of pain. He will direct us in times of uncertainty.

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Anxiety may be part of your story, but it does not have to define you. The flames may be burning around you, but they do not have to steal your joy or feelings of hope.

Begin breathing techniques and relaxation exercises.

If you are struggling with panic attacks, begin taking deep breaths when a worrisome thought is consuming you. Download a relaxation breathing app on your phone to have on hand when you begin feeling the onset of panic. Find relaxation exercises and activities that work for you.

Re-channel that negative thought. Speak words of affirmation aloud. Practice yoga, exercise regularly, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition/water intake. To battle the mind, the body also needs proper care and nutrition.

Begin journaling when you have a panic attack.

What were you doing at that moment? What was happening around you? Who was around you? How did you feel? What thoughts began racing through your mind? Journaling will help pinpoint what is causing the panic attack if you are unaware. Journaling may also help you work through and process your thoughts on a deeper level.

Know that your pain will not last forever.

Barbara Haines Howett said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, she became a butterfly.” You may have seen a lot of pain in your lifetime. Maybe those closest to you have not been the most encouraging.

You were made for a beautiful purpose and your story is still being written. Perhaps the last few chapters of life have been painful for you, but there is hope on the horizon. Your story can help make a difference in someone else’s life. This setback may be propelling you into something amazing that is right around the corner – and you do not want you to miss it.

Find a strong support system or accountability partner that you can be authentic with. Find someone who will understand and support you when things become heavy.

Hope on the Horizon: Christian Anxiety Counseling

If you are currently struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, Christian counseling for anxiety may be the perfect fit for you. It is a non-judgmental space that wants nothing but hope, joy, and the beautiful unfolding of a new chapter for your life. Today could bring new dawn – scheduling your appointment is the first step to building a stronger and better tomorrow.

Bible Verses for Anxiety

I encourage you to say and pray these aloud when anxiety tries to creep in and steal your sense of peace:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:34

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.Deuteronomy 31:6

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.Proverbs 12:25

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

A Prayer for the Anxious Heart

Father, right now I pray for the person whose heart is anxious. Lord, I pray that you would intervene. Cover their soul right now. Replace their anxious thoughts with thoughts of hope and positive declarations to ward off this negativity.

Please take away the feelings of panic and replace them with feelings of peace and hope. Please soothe their soul, calm their mind, and let them feel that You are present – now and forevermore. Please work in their heart as only You can. Please remind them that they are not alone.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Photos:
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Alexandre Croussette, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Masking”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Letting Go of the Stress”, Courtesy of Eli DeFaria, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Free At Last”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Unforgiveness and Its Effect on Our Lives

The idea of dishing out our own brand of justice is a tale as old as time, and it finds expression in comic books, movies, books, and in our lives. Some of our favorite pop culture heroes are the vigilantes who serve justice outside the lines of the law.

The Guy Ritchie-directed movie Snatch, starring Brad Pitt and Jason Statham among others, put an interesting definition of the word “nemesis” in the mouth of one of its foul-mouthed characters, a gangster named Bricktop. Bricktop, in one of his many memorable pieces of dialogue, said something like this: “Do you know what nemesis means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by . . . me.”

When someone wounds or offends us or the people we love, it is natural for us to want to retaliate, to inflict retribution. Sometimes, we feel like fixing things ourselves will be the best and quickest way to see justice done. Bricktop, for his part, thought himself to be a proper agent of righteous retribution, even though under the circumstances he was far from being righteous.

Set that next to the notion of forgiveness, which doesn’t often sit well with us, especially when we’re deep in our feelings about a situation. Forgive that person who just insulted me, my faith, or my people? Forgive that person who just rudely cut me off in traffic and then had the gall to insult me and my driving?

It’s often difficult enough to forgive our loved ones, but to forgive those we would call our enemies? That seems like a bridge too far. In those moments, it seems to make more sense to follow the way of Bricktop than it does to follow the way of Jesus.

What unforgiveness does to us

Every action we undertake has an impact on our lives. On the other side of that is the reality that whatever our hearts are full of will emerge out of our mouths and into our lives, showing us what’s going on inside of us.

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in them, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in them.Matthew 12:34-35

Forgiving people is hard. We are concerned, and rightly so, that they will hurt us again, that forgiving them will seem like condoning their behavior, or that forgiving them will allow them to keep doing what they did. It is understandable that faced with the choice between offering forgiveness and withholding it, we often withhold it and live in a state of unforgiveness.

What, though, is the effect of unforgiveness on our lives?

It creates a barrier between us and God

In our own lives, we make many, many mistakes. We are repeat offenders in God’s books, and we find ourselves often at the throne of grace asking God for forgiveness. In the prayer he taught his followers, Jesus taught them to ask God for forgiveness even as they pray for daily bread (Matthew 6:9-15).

If we know ourselves well and are honest, we should acknowledge that we need forgiveness from God and other people often. God is gracious and freely forgives us, casting our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west.

The challenging part for us is that God asks us to extend forgiveness to others in the same way that he forgives us. What we have received, we are to pass on and bless others with.

So, that prayer for forgiveness that Jesus taught his followers goes, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…” and he closes off the conversation by saying, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:11-12, 14-15).

When we withhold forgiveness from other people and live in a state of unforgiveness, it brings a challenge to our relationship with God. As one interpretation of these verses puts it, “In prayer, there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part”.

We exist in a complex web of relationships. God cares about what happens between us and our neighbors, and we can’t isolate or insulate our relationship with them from our relationship with God. The new life God gives us enables us to live in harmony with others and empowers us to do the impossible, like forgiving people.

It’s bad for your health

Forgiveness is connected to massive health benefits. Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that “Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of a heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.”

“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in many changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response.

Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

Living in unforgiveness and holding on to negative feelings about other people is bad for your health.

It robs us of the freedom God intends

One of the gifts that God has given people in Jesus is freedom. That freedom takes shape in different ways, but one of the surprising ways is that we are freed from our old selves, which were prone to feelings such as “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander” (Ephesians 4:31). These are part of the old way of life.

That doesn’t mean that no situation will arise where we feel those things. Living out the life of God in us means that we give less and less room to those negative emotions, and learn more and more to “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).

Feeling angry toward someone as a result of unforgiveness can be so draining. As we’ve already pointed out, unforgiveness includes a heavy physical burden to carrying those emotions all day. Feeling anger and resentment toward other people also just wears down your soul and robs you of your joy. Have you ever noticed what happens when you’re in a good mood, and a person you have something against walks in the room?

All your energy gets taken away from the happiness you were feeling and is redirected toward avoiding that person’s gaze or just wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. That’s a burden. Rather than carry that, God’s people can be sure that God will take up our cause and do what is right at the right time, so we don’t have to burden ourselves with holding onto our anger and wanting revenge (Romans 12:14-21).

It affects relationships and causes us to miss what God is doing

The story of the lost son in Luke 15 is a remarkable one about people finding a way back from a very dark place. The younger son in the story is wayward, and he squanders the family wealth on alcohol, parties, and fast living. He brings shame to his father and the family. The older son stayed home all the while, faithfully working the fields.

When the younger brother ran out of money and lost his friends, he thought to come home and restore some semblance of a relationship with his father. The wayward younger brother in the story stood for the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus was welcoming and eating with.

The older brother, standing for the religious leaders, angrily stood far off from the wayward brother, and would not extend forgiveness, welcome, or rejoice when the generous father had welcomed the wayward son home.

Was the wayward son wrong in what he had done? Yes, very much so. Is it natural and normal to feel offended, much like the older brother did in these circumstances? Yes. But in that story, Jesus was trying to show that the joy of welcoming back a wayward brother who has repented ought to overtake our offense at what they did.

The Pharisees were unwilling to welcome the tax collectors and sinners even when God in Jesus was welcoming them into the Kingdom. Choosing to forgive isn’t easy, but living in unforgiveness made them, and it can make us, miss out on what God is doing.

Photos:
“Love At All Costs”, Courtesy of Gus Moretta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Let It Go”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Please Forgive Me”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Felix Koutchinski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License