Recovery Manifesto

What do you want your recovery to look like in a year? What do you want your marriage to look like in a year?

If you can’t answer that question, then where do you expect either of them to end up? Not sure about your life, but in mine the best things don’t happen by accident. Good outcomes and growth aren’t my default. Quite the opposite! I frequently say that my life is like going up the down escalator; if I’m not actively pursuing who God is calling me to be, then I’m passively slipping back into who I’ve always been. That holds true personally, professionally, spiritually and maritally.

Recently, a client has been working on a recovery/marriage manifesto. His task has been to write a declaration answering the question: What do I want our lives and relationship to look like in 1 year, and how will we get there?

I just want to share an excerpt from that manifesto:

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how we’ll get there…

I don’t know all the things that will happen between now and 365 days from now. But what I do know is how we’ll accomplish the goals set out above. This manifesto will ring true if…

  • humility is the focus of approaching our marriage and our relationship
  • communication is open, honest and humble
  • we trust in God, at the deepest level we’ve ever trusted him, by praying like it all depends on him and working like it all depends on us
  • we connect in true intimacy
We’ll look back at 2013 and say with confidence that it was a hell of a year because of the hopelessness, despair, helplessness, fear, betrayal, deceit, rejection, guilt, and shame felt by us both. But it was worth it because true transformation came out of the deepest, darkest pit we were in. I want us to say that 2013 was the year that everything changed for the better.
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This fires me up! Frankly, I think that fires God up too. I think he sees this, jumps out of his seat, yells “OH YEAH!” and high-fives the closest angel. In effect, this manifesto sets the stage on which God can orchestrate radical redemption and gives the curtain call for Him to get the glory for it. 2013 is the year it all changed. It’s the year God showed up. It’s the year redemption began to be real.

Will 2013 be the year everything changed for you?

There’s still time. The year’s not over.

(not so) Happy Holidays

turkey1

The holidays are upon us and for many people, they aren’t so happy. The reason is that the holidays usually mean engagement with family, which can be incredibly triggering. This can be true for both a man struggling with sexual integrity issues and also for his wife.

For men, often family-of-origin issues are at play. It can be an interaction with dad that taps a nerve. Or it could be a comment from mom that just sits awkwardly.  It could be the house or a particular room in the house that brings back old memories. Whatever the event, it can be a trigger that catches people off-guard. Without realizing it, some of the old emotions can surface and subtly lure a man back towards medicating and acting out.

Likewise for wives, family and often (especially) the in-laws can be triggering. I hear stories of wives returning from Christmas with the husband’s family bearing resentment, anger, and also insight! They sometimes see relational dynamics that shed light on their husband’s mannerisms, attitudes and behavioral patterns. In fact, I frequently hear wives say they see the kid come out. In other words, they see the origin of some of the childish behavior they witness in their adult husbands.

All that said, here’s the good news: the holidays can be an incredible time of growth! Personally, we can grow by handling family triggers better than ever before. We can do intimacy (speaking non-sexually) with our spouses unlike ever before.  We can connect with the folks walking our journey with us. We can also let the difficulties drive us deeper towards Jesus.

So, a few of suggestions for this holiday season:

  1. Practice self-awareness through journaling. For both husband and wife, it is imperative to be dialed-in to what’s happening in your heart. Finishing your day with a quick download in your journal can be enough to process some of the emotions that could lead to acting out.
  2. If you know your family situation causes strife and is potentially toxic, prep your accountability partners/support people for daily phone calls to check in. It may be a 10-minute conversation with someone in your corner that can talk you off a ledge.  It can also be a conversation like this that helps you see your family with a new level of grace.
  3. Try to remember that everyone comes to the Thanksgiving table with a story. People show up with that story playing out, and sometimes it’s messy.
  4. Remember that no matter where you are in your story, you are not disqualified from helping someone bump into Jesus.

More Fences

Picking up from the last post about secondary boundaries, today we’ll look at 3 more. Again the idea isn’t to manage our lives by avoiding these boundaries at all costs. Instead it is about using these boundaries as signals to help us navigate life in a God honoring way, especially as it pertains to sexual integrity. Let’s jump in.

4. Intellectual – think curiosity. Intellectual boundaries are those places in our minds where we may end up triggered. The most common example of this is when a guy says he saw something on TV or in a magazine, then felt curious, so he jumped online and googled it. He is basically asking to be slimed. It is something that has or could have a sexual hook to it. It could be a person’s name, a product or object, or even an article. If your radar is up and your mind starts to wonder towards something with a sexual edge to it, it is probably an Intellectual Boundary.

5. Psychologicalmental health issues. Some people act out sexually in times of depression. Others in the swings of a bipolar disorder or in the manic phases of bipolar disorder. Still others in the midst of anxiety or when they feel panicky. Mental health issues play an important role for some people and seeing a doctor to discuss medication is the right next step. If you (or someone close to you) can help see a trend or pattern of sexual volatility around mental health struggles, it’s time to get that checked out.

6. Financialmoney. I’ve talked to guys who act out on payday and for very different reasons. Some because they feel powerful and in control, they feel adequate and want to celebrate their achievements. Others because payday is a reminder of their inadequacy and shortcomings, knowing there is too much month and not enough check. Financial talks with spouses can be stressful, as can figuring out how to pay for your son/daughters next semester at college. Mounting debt, unexpected auto expenses, medical bills, etc. can all be a factor. With financial boundaries, the goal is to have a plan in place to handle the issues that will arise. Perhaps on the front end that looks like taking a Crown Financial or a Financial Peace class. It also looks like be on the same page as your spouse, which those classes can help with.

I urge you to discuss these boundaries with your accountability partners. Ask them to help you identify trends and to see your blindspots. Get their input on what appropriate boundaries are and what the plan should look like to deal with them. Be prayerful with them to invite God in, and ask His input on your structure and path forward.