Confronting the Resistance to Change

Chris Cole

Have you had the situation where you decided to change a habit or behavior and are successful for a couple weeks (maybe longer), only to find the habit or behavior returning? I have. Change is hard. It is difficult to give up old habits and patterns of behaving and relating. How many times have you said to yourself and others that you are going to change and yet resort back to the old way of acting? Maybe you are just beginning recovery and are not sure about making changes others say you need to. What is the resistance to change about, and how can you overcome this resistance?That is what this article addresses.

Resistance is a force that pushes back against movement in a particular direction. In terms of dealing with sexual addiction (and addiction in general), resistance will be encountered as you try to change the old way of behaving. This resistance will manifest in several ways. The first resistance encountered will be simply to admit you have a problem that needs change. This admission is the first step in the recovery process. It is the step of honesty. Overcoming denial often results when the pain of our behavior is worse than the rewards it brings. Pain is a powerful motivator in breaking down resistance to change. Admitting the consequences of our actions can make us face reality and the pain it brings. It further helps one see the unmanageability of life and powerlessness over one’s behavior. When one sees the insanity of what you have been doing, you are ready to truly move forward in recovery. I have found that in the early stages of recovery, being in a recovery group and in individual therapy is indicated in order to break through the denial and have the needed support to deal with the pain of the addict’s life. I have more to say on denial a little further on.

In understanding resistance to change, one must take into account the physical impact of addiction. Research on sex addicts’ brains show a striking similarity to the brains of cocaine addicts. The implications in terms of treatment is that the hyperstimulation that comes from engaging in a sexual addiction alters the brain chemistry, leaving a clear biochemical component as one quits the habit. Withdrawal symptoms include distress, anxiety, restlessness or irritability when unable to engage in the behavior. Resistance can be experienced simply yet powerfully as the person goes through withdrawal. A person must consider a good evaluation by a therapist familiar with addiction with the possible recommendation for referral to a doctor for medication where indicated.

As a person begins to give up the old patterns of behaving, all of the emotions he or she has been medicating through the addiction will begin to come back. Simply put, there will be an awareness of emotional pain. Resistance here will be to find another way to medicate the pain. No one likes to feel pain, yet it is God’s way of driving us to look to Him to find solutions rather than in our own resources. Here again, one must confront and put into place new strategies for handling pain. Addicts generally have more than one addiction. So while stopping the sexual addiction, the addict may increase the activity in another addiction to medicate the withdrawal symptoms. Or while the person gives up the sexual addiction, he replaces it with another addiction with the majority of emotional and behavioral features remaining the same (Carnes, Pat. Addiction Interaction, p.2). Here, the person has not dealt with the core problems. He has simply found another way of self-medicating.

Perhaps the greater battle will be found in changing your belief system. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things. We have this capacity to deceive ourselves. It also says that change comes by the renewing of our mind. When we get caught up in a pattern of acting that gets entrenched, we find numerous ways of defending that behavior. Stronghold beliefs (II Corinthians 10 3-5) are the ways we protect patterns and actions that we wish to engage in that are contrary to living the way God wants us to live. Denial is the way addicts protect sexual behavior that they want to continue to engage in. Resistance will be found in the reasons one continues to justify engaging in self-destructive ways. Rationalizations (‘I don’t have a problem, you all are just sexually too conservative’), minimizing (‘it’s not a problem’), and comparison (I’m not as bad as some of the others’) are just a few. In twelve step language, this equates to ‘stinking thinking.’ One must be relentless in rooting out distortions in thinking. In order to do this, the individual must ask help of others in the recovery community to confront distortions when they hear it. You must not allow pride (‘I can do this on my own, or I don’t need to tell others or ask for help’) to get in the way. Remember, it is your own thinking that has got you in the mess in the first place. We must recruit the help of the recovery community in overcoming resistance to change.

Recovery and change doesn’t just happen. Breaking through resistance is a daily battle that Paul reminds us in Galatians 5 of the spirit and the flesh at war with one another. Paul had to crucify the flesh and its passions. To overcome resistance, one needs to be honest. Find safe people where you can share and be held accountable. Get a sponsor to assist you to work through a twelve step program and establish and maintain sobriety will really be helpful. Establish good spiritual habits of devotion, bible study, and fellowship with other believers. Avoid isolating. We need each other in this battle.

See Every Man’s Battle for more help.

Tiredness in Recovery: Don’t Let It Get You Lying Down

Martin Fierro

You have worked a long day, feeling a cold coming on or is it the spring time allergies, you did not have one solid meal, did not sleep well the night before, stuck in traffic, late for an appointment, forgot to call your wife back, that home project needs to be completed, the car engine light just went on AND it is only Monday. When the last hour seemed hard enough to get through to remain sexually pure in heart, mind and soul, here comes the next hour to press through.

Taking it one day at a time really can come down to a minute to minute per the environment our mind is entertaining. Part of what can make a tempting situation worse is the condition of ones mental and physical state when such life stressors occur. And it is common that tempting situations will occur with more intensity at the early onset of sexual sobriety along with when you are physically/mentally drained (the enemy does not want you to win). And sobriety can seem more intense because for the first time in your life maintaining sexually integrity, to not sexually acting out, is the healthiest option irregardless to what has occurred on any particular day of the week.

‘Well, what do I do now? I am exhausted; feel disconnected, lonely and angry. So now I sit in a lonely house with no one, what I can get myself into? This is boring; I need something to make me feel good about myself. I am so tired of going through this on my own. No one has my problems.’

Should we call the ‘whaaamm-bulance?’

Self pity not only can be a trigger to acting out, but also a key that you are physically and mentally needing rest and recovery.

Don’t let temptations catch you lying down and don’t under-estimate your tiredness in your recovery process. And the reality is that you are going to have tired days, tired of working recovery days, and both.

Let this be of encouragement to you. You are not alone. God has not abandoned you and there are others out there who want to be supportive to you as you seek sexual integrity and sobriety from the addictive behavior. But in a tired emotional and cognitive state of being we begin to believe that this cave of our emotional struggles is to be kept inside that cave, keeping our feelings in the dark.

Just the opposite is true for health and sobriety. Bring the feelings to the light. Seeking support from other brothers who are in ‘the battle’ is a great step. And when asked by that brother in arms ‘how are you doing?’ Not answering ‘fine.’ Those of you who have participated in a 12 step program know what that acronym for FINE is (we’ll just say ‘Faking it,’ Insecure, Negative and Evasive).

Here are some options to consider to help when you are tired of fighting this fight and want to just give up because of life stressors:

1. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Ground yourself spiritually. Do not rush through the prayer of ‘okay okay okay, I am sitting’..waiting’.. ahhh’.okay, waiting waiting’ um, where are you God?’ Quiet you inner talk and LISTEN. Let me encourage you to first turn off the television and/or radio. Then go and sit down somewhere comfortable, uncross you arms and take some deep breathes for at least 5 minutes while focusing on nothing but your breathing. Clear your mind.

2. Have an officer in arms/sponsor. Pick up that 600 pound phone and connect with a brother in arms. Be open and honest. Saying what is going on is not weakness. It can mentally beneficial to say it out loud (take some power away from it).

3. Remain on alert. When you become tired you can convince yourself, ‘I can handle things now, in this part of my recovery.’ Don’t open that door to temptations; keep your Armor of God on. There is a spiritual war going on with your mind and the enemy knows the best way to get you is by brainwashing (convincing) you to believe and behave otherwise.

4. Exercise. It cannot be said enough: go for a simple bike ride, swim or walk. Observe the creation of the earth, take in the splendor that is before you (watch your eyes and where you look, of course!).

5. Eat well, diet appropriately per what your doctor would recommend for you stage in life.

6. Pick up that God given gift, talent ,or skill and put it to use for others benefit.

Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 11

New Life Ministries

How a Woman Thinks

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)

It’s Not About You

Another translation says to ‘live with your wives in an understanding way.’ One of ways to be ‘understanding’ is to remember that when your wife is upset, it’s not about you. It’s so easy for us as men to react to our wife’s emotions as if they are an indictment on us.

Somewhere deep inside we feel like it is our job to make our wife happy, and when they aren’t we feel powerless. We feel like a failure. It makes us uncomfortable ‘ we hate not knowing what to do.

So what do we do? Instead of focusing on the hurt our wife is experiencing, we often try to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings by stopping our wife’s emotions. One way we try to bring emotions to an end is by ‘fixing the problem.’ Of course, your wife does not want to be treated like a problem that needs to be fixed.

A second way we try to make these tense situations end is to shame our wife into feeling bad about feeling bad. ‘If you wouldn’t get so emotional maybe we could work on our marriage.’

Using the analogy of a tennis match, when we try to cut off our wife’s emotions by ‘fixing it’ or shaming her, we have just ended a point with an overhead smash. An overhead smash is a great way to end a rally in tennis, but not a very good way to honor your wife.

Empathize with Her

When your wife is upset, she doesn’t want you to fix it’she wants to be heard. She wants you to empathize.

One of a woman’s greatest needs is for intimacy and emotional connection. At a time of great stress, if you turn her away, she gets the message that you are not really there for her. She begins to feel like she is not safe with you.

Consider this diagnostic question: the last time your wife went through an emotional time, who did she turn to? Who did she call on the phone? Who did she go see? Often a woman will share her hurt with a female friend who will listen and empathize with her.

With her friends, she is not afraid to cry and show real emotions. She knows she will still be heard. While it makes sense that a woman would turn to friends in a time of need, it does raise the question, ‘Why is it so hard for many men to provide this emotional connection for their wives?’

Besides feeling uncomfortable and wanting the emotions to end, many men often desire to ‘win’ in the discussion. We often want our wife to know we were right.

Men typically believe that empathizing with their wife is the same thing as saying she is justified in what she believes or the way she feels. So if I don’t agree with my wife’s conclusions, I find it difficult to validate her emotions. I feel two-faced, like I am saying I agree with her when I don’t.

Let’s say she is upset about a joke someone made about her clothes. You believe it was an innocent comment made in jest; she believes it was an intentional insult. Most men would be hesitant to validate her feelings for fear that she would believe they agreed with her conclusion about the comment.

As men, we need to separate these two ideas. We can disagree with our wife’s conclusion or feelings but still understand that those feelings are real and hurtful. In the moment, it’s enough to say, ‘I know it hurts when you feel like you have been attacked.’ There’ll be time later to talk about the reality behind the pain.

If we really want to bring about transformation, the best way to do that is to support our wives emotionally until they come to a place where we can prayerfully work together and see things the way God would want us to.

She needs us to empathize with her and let her know that we understand ‘ and also to tell her what we are thinking and feeling, even if it includes that we are uncomfortable with her feelings.

Selflessly Loving Her Will Make You Happy

The paradox of marriage is the paradox of the gospel’when we lose our life for others we find it again. If you put your wife first in every situation, including honoring her emotions, then God promises you will find a deeper joy than you could otherwise ever know.


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. (Ephesians 5:25-28, NIV)

He who loves his wife loves himself. Why? Because you were made to love God and others, and when you do this you are doing exactly what God made you to do. The most ‘selfish’ thing you can do as a husband is to sacrificially lay down your life for your wife. This will bring you the greatest joy.

The beauty of God’s plan is that your sacrificial love will also help to make her holy.

Your wife is not always right and you are not always wrong’it will usually be a combination of both. Emotions can be a righteous reaction to circumstances or a manipulative attempt at control’and everything in between.

What God wants is for us as men to be less worried about who is right or wrong and how we can win, and more worried about how we can help our wife become everything He wants her to be.

The Big Idea is this: Your wife’s heart is a treasure, and God has entrusted it to you. When a woman is not OK, she wants her husband to recognize it, then pursue her and listen to her heart. She wants us to honor her emotions.

Treat your wife with dignity and respect. Listen to her heart. Serve her and lead her to a greater love for Christ and for you. This is what marriage is all about.

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.