Exoneration or Empathy

How do you handle conversations when your wife is triggered…

When our wife is asking us questions it can often feel like an interrogation or cross-examination. Once we’re on the witness stand, we can easily adopt a defensive posture, where we try to say enough to satisfy our questioner but not so much that we incriminate ourselves. Genuinely, we don’t want to make things worse or hurt our wives any more. We also don’t want to be indicted for crimes we didn’t commit. So we get hung up trying to navigate the details rather than engaging our hearts and emotions.

Sometimes we end up responding to the questions (usually after there are a lot of them) in a way that looks like we’re seeking exoneration. Here’s a quick definition of exonerate:

-to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime or responsible for a problem, bad situation, etc.

I know my tendency is to get released on a technicality. In the past, when my wife didn’t have her facts straight, I’d argue the loophole. And, truthfully, we know were that ends up don’t we? Very little healing happens in those conversations.

Instead, a better way to engage is to practice empathy. To feel her pain. Answer the questions asked and try to connect the pain, fear, disappointment, shame and sense of betrayal that may accompany them. Most wives in my office say that when their husband try’s to argue/correct/restate the facts it seems like he is trying to get out of being responsible.

The next time the conversation unfolds and you start to feel like you’re on trial, remember that to pause before you respond and ask yourself: “Am I about to practice empathy or am I trying to be exonerated?”

Faulty Core Beliefs – Is sex a need?

Is sex a need?

This is one of those issues that, month-after-month, sparks a great conversation at the Every Mans Battle workshops. I thoroughly enjoy the discussion, even though sometimes it can get pretty heated. It is amazing to see how many different angles there are to answer the question too; biblical, single vs. married, natural/instinctual, physiological, psychological.

In an effort to start a discussion [not an argument] I’d like to invite feedback on this post.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, guru of sex addiction work, says in Out of the Shadows that people who are sexually addicted believe sex is their most important need. A lot of guys argue this point. At face value it is in fact easy to argue; especially when we apply Christian principles and understand that God designed sex, it is good, and it is part and parcel to marriage. But the more we unpack what it means to believe sex is a need, the more we see how our lives reflect our beliefs.  Let me explain:

Is sex a need to perpetuate the species and “go forth and multiply”?  Yes, it is. The species and multiplication cannot occur without it. (Ok, we can debate the logistics and mechanics of modern medicine related to reproduction, but at the end of the day a sexual act is still involved). So, in this sense, sex is a need. But, does that mean every time we engage sex with our spouse we are doing so to reproduce? No. So is sex a need for us personally?

Is sex a need based on physiology? Yes, there is a cycle to the development of sperm/semen that requires release. While the interval varies, for most men there is a regular cycle of production that physiologically requires a release. In this sense too, sex is a need. However, this assumes sex is the only vehicle to appropriately provide release. And by sex, I mean sexual acts – from masturbation to sexual intercourse. But is this true? What about nonsexual nocturnal emissions; where the body releases without a sexual stimulus? If you’ve talked to someone who has had a vasectomy, you know that once a vasectomy happens, sperm production does not immediately stop. Instead, the body has ways of dealing with the production through absorption and excretion. So, here we are again, asking the question: is sex a need in this regard?

What about if you’re married? If the person we love the most on the planet changes her last name, does sex automatically become a need? God ordained sexual intimacy in marriage and in fact encourages it. Some would say He commands it! Does this make it a need? And if it does, what about marriages where one spouse or the other cannot physically engage in sexual intimacy? I digress. Can we agree that marital status neither confirms nor denies whether sex is a need?

Do we need sex to feel loved? There is a cultural saying thrown around that goes, Women need to feel loved to have sex, Men need to have sex to feel loved”. Do you believe this? Is that to say that there are no other ways for men to feel loved other than to have sex? Is it the chicken or the egg – do men only know how to feel loved via sex because they’ve never know true intimacy and thus love without sex? I’ve digressed.

If we don’t get food, we die. If we don’t get water, we die. If we don’t get air, we die. Those are needs. We all believe, at a core level, that we need them. As such, we’ll go to great lengths to get them. We would cross lines we swore we’d never cross, go places we promised to never go, do things to people we never imagined ourselves doing, and breaking vows we swore we would never break.

Want to guess what a lot of guys have done to get sexual pleasure?

Most guys I talk to have crossed lines, gone places, broken vows (that they truly meant) and have done things to themselves and others they swore they would never do. Why?

Because they have a core belief that sex is a need, and fear the negative consequence on their life if they surrender it.

Do you believe sex is a need?
Do you fear negative consequences on your life if you surrender it?

Have you crossed lines or broken vows you swore you’d never transgress?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faulty Core Beliefs

Every month at EMB we talk about faulty core beliefs. These include beliefs about ourselves such as “I’m a monster”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m unforgivable” and “I’m worthless” to name a few. We also have faulty core beliefs about our needs and the ability and/or willingness of the people near us to meet them.

This past weekend at the workshop, while having a dialogue with the attendees about intimacy aversion, someone said, “I’ve convinced myself I am the only one who can or will meet my needs.” Guess who that automatically sidelines….

  • His wife
  • His God
  • Other healthy, safe men
  • His kids
  • His parents

Unfortunately, he expressed a core belief that most men with sexual integrity issues have. Whilst the belief is present, people (wives, friends, pastors) try desperately to get inside the walls around the guy’s heart only to be catapulted back over when real or perceived rejection is a risk. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to wives. They get tired of being catapulted.

For me, the only way this belief was dismantled and eventually jettisoned was to begin allowing guys in. I couldn’t even let Shelley in at first. It was only a few safe men I was willing to trust. And I was skeptical and resistant even to that. But with time, I realized and experienced those guys meeting my needs. Not ultimately and with finality, but in those dire moments, they were there.

Sometimes the need was simply for perspective, that it wasn’t all lost. Sometimes it was reassurance that I wasn’t a monster, but instead a broken man. Often it was a simple reminder that God hadn’t given up on me. Every once in a while it was a hug.

If this describes you, perhaps its time to let some people in. Not another image. Not another mistress. Not another prostitute. Some people who will hate what you’re doing and love you along the way.

By the way, that’s one of the great privileges of being a part of the Every Mans Battle weekend. For a few, brave men, they will allow us (staff) access to their hearts. We can be a conduit of God, meeting their needs for the moment.

In a couple days I’ll post about another, even more detrimental faulty core belief. Stay tuned…