Own It

Jumping right in…

If you have acted out sexually with pornography, masturbation, affairs, etc. you’ve also acted “in” relationally. The two go hand-in-hand. Men who struggle with sexual integrity issues also struggle with things like hiding, blaming, shaming, avoiding, stonewalling, criticizing and controlling with anger. These behaviors push people away and, as some wives report, actually hurt worse than the sexual betrayal.

Once disclosure/discovery occurs and the acting out behaviors stop, the acting in behaviors become the issue. The tougher issue. It’s incredibly hard to change and get away from a critical spirit, from a blameshifting attitude or from being angry and defensive. Yet this is the work of recovery.

Too often I find that while men will own their acting out behavior, they have a difficult time owning their acting in behavior. Typically the justification for it is a cause and effect accusation against the wife. He says he wouldn’t have to be defensive if she didn’t get so angry and accuse him of things. He wouldn’t have to be quiet and shut down if she could just calm down and listen. He wouldn’t have to criticize her if she were a little more complimentary of him. Further, I hear the self validation when guys say that it is only with their wives that they are this way. Since it only happens with her, not the kids, at work or with his buddies, then by process of elimination she is the problem.

Take it from a recovering acting in addict, the best thing you can do for your relationship and for your recovery personally is own this junk. Even the cause and effect thinking itself is acting in. It is putting up a relational wall that keeps pain out and stagnant, self righteousness in.

By the way, sometimes the last statement about it only happening with a wife is true. But its usually not because she is the problem, though that can certainly be the case. More often, its because the marriage is the most intimate relationship we’re involved in. A wife has more ammunition to fire, knows exactly what buttons to push (intentionally or accidentally), and wields the most power to pronounce judgement and rejection. Simply said, there is more risk in the marriage.

The sooner you begin to own those acting in behaviors, the sooner you will feel a change within yourself. Remember that those of us who do this stuff aren’t monsters or perverts, we’re not stupid or simply jerks. There is a reason and there are emotional triggers that prompt us to enact old, unhealthy ways of dealing with life. The more you understand these triggers and your automatic response, the more you have a chance for life to be different.

Key Ingredients of Change

Over and over again I hear people talk about what brings about change in a person. Especially for folks struggling with sexual integrity issues like pornography, visiting prostitutes, strip clubs or massage parlors. Once sexually addicted, the question becomes even more difficult to answer. Psychotherapy and counseling some people say. Only God, others say. Circumstances. The twelve steps. Crisis.

I’m going to suggest there are 3 key ingredients that facilitate change. Sure, we can name a bunch of things that help, but I’m suggesting that if these 3 aren’t present, true change will not occur.

First, being unwilling to accept our personal status quo. I was talking with Shelley last night and, after she expressed a way I had hurt her, thought about the reality that I’m kind of tired of being me. At least, I’m tired of that part of me; that way of living. We all know that feeling where we just sort of realize we’ve become comfortable with the status quo. The question becomes: will we do something about it? People who are unwilling to change reach a point where they consider it adequate to measure the present against the past. The mindset here is saying, “at least I’m not who I used to be” instead of “I’m not yet who I could be, who God is calling me to be”. If we want to guarantee change, we cannot accept that who we are today will suffice for the future God has for us. We must be unwilling to accept our personal status quo.

Second, we must challenge our constants. Sounds pretty underwhelming, I know, but it can be surprising how much we’re willing to accept about ourselves because it’s how we’ve always been. We land at our age, be it 25, 45, 55, 75 years old and we’re “just the way we are”. But how’d we get there? Because we didn’t challenge the constants. To guarantee change is to question our norms, our standards and our default settings. It is to question our motives, why we believe what we believe and why want to believe what we believe. It means we have to question the narrative by which we live, and ask ourselves where it would be more meaningful to just tear up the script.

Third, in order to change we need to humbly submit ourselves to people who are unwilling to accept our personal status quo and who will challenge our constants. You know the people who, when you bring something up and sort of know what their response is going to be, blind-side you with some out-of-left-field question that puts you on your heels? Those are the folks I’m talking about. One of my accountability partners in the early days, Kurt, would always ask “5 whys” when he was digging into something in me. He’d take my first answer and toss it like garbage. Then my second, he’d give a little “hmm” and challenge a 3rd answer to be more insightful. Eventually, even if we didn’t get to 5 (which when we did was super-frustrating and made me hate Kurt some mornings!), we went beyond the status quo, beyond the easy answer, and deeper than I typically thought.

Maybe the people that do that for you are your accountability partners. Perhaps it’s a counselor. Maybe it’s the pastor you listen to on Saturdays or Sundays. Could be the guys at poker night. It might even be what you read that does it for you. We have to humbly submit ourselves to people who won’t let us stay the same.

I believe if we’ll adopt a posture of humility, submit to others’ input, challenge ourselves, and stop measuring progress by what we’re not doing anymore we actually make ourselves malleable. We become willing to see what we were once blind to, and become perceptive to what the Spirit prompts in us. We become moldable in the hands of God to be made like his son.

KitchenConversation – Triggers and Trust

Apologies in advance….this one is a long one…

Watch for Part 2 soon!