Super Charged Communication

Martin Fierro

So your back home from being motivated and super charged at the last EMB conference. Feeling super charged spiritually? Ready to talk? ‘Hey honey let me share what happened and what I just learned!’ Her response of ‘un-huh, but what about me?’ should not surprise you. How you respond with any information shared from your wife will be vitally important. It is in the healing of the relationship that the events of the past behavior may be in the past historically but not emotionally. In such, healing for the relationship will come through periods of communication super charged with a sensitivity fruit cocktail of caution, fear, hurt, grief, despair (shall I go on?).

The keys many men miss in the opportunity and recovery of the relationship are the components of truly listening to your wife. She too, has a story to tell and an experience to process.

The reality is that the relationship is changed and you cannot go back to the old manners in communication with your wife (and behavior for that matter). For it was in that old nature of communication that deception and manipulation was nourished. On this side of the coin, your communication model should be based in love and grace (in speaking and listening). In the construction of listening there are three strong skills to listening to your wife. Before they are detailed, let it be known that problem solving (Mr. Fix-it) is not the top of the list for listening skills. Research has shown that when the primary components of listening are worked through first, then problem solving and resolution has a higher probability for success.

Think of it this way, we have been given two ears and one mouth. A good probable reason is so we will listen twice as much as we speak.

Listening is not a matter of making the comment back, ‘so what I hear you say is” or ‘I understand.’ Or worse is the appearance of listening while preparing for a rebuttal, ‘I see honey, and I understand, BUT’.’ Do you want to continue super charging the communication level through defensiveness? Because this last example is one sure way of doing it. Or do you want to change the engagement of the communication patterns to a deeper level of intimacy? Your options; continue the old patterns of super charged communications or create the change in your response behavior. And that is typically a good spot to start. Any change in one of you will create a change in the relationship.

The three primary components of productive listening are attend, acknowledge and inviting. Attending has three sub factors: look at the person talking to you, listen to what they are saying (not what your mind is thinking and feeling), and track what they are saying. Acknowledging is about reflecting back through brief statements the thoughts and feelings being heard and understood. And this does not mean a lengthy sentence. Think of acknowledging your spouse with simple words as she shares, such as ‘wow, that is sad, how awful, mad, disappointed, how exciting’etc.’ Inviting is about when you see that your wife is holding back on sharing, and you know that look and feeling, you simple say something to the affect of: ‘keep going,’ ‘tell me more,’ ‘I am with you, please continue,’ or ‘Is anything else you want me to know?’

These skills (attend, acknowledge and invite) give the opportunity to listen to your spouse through love and grace. Notice there was nothing about giving feedback or fixing what was being shared by the other. But more importantly time to allow your spouse to experience the thoughts and feelings without correction, distraction or manipulation.

It is important to know that communication of thoughts and feelings should never be expressed through physical aggression. Appropriate boundaries may need to be set if either one of you have such difficulty. It is also just as important that listening to your spouse may appear to be verbally abusive when in reality she is inviting you into her world of thoughts and feelings of pain, depression, anger’.

In communication there are two words that are recommended to avoid or use cautiously: why & you. Both have at their base a probable result of discord and passive aggressive communication. These two words all too frequently create defensiveness even if such is not meant. Yes there are alternatives that create an opportunity for clarity. Instead of using ‘why,’ try using ‘honey can you help me understand what you meant by’.’ In regards to using ‘you’ statements, it is best to not start a sentence with it such as ‘you should,’ ‘you said” ‘you are not making sense because’.’ Instead, as silly as it may sound, focus on using a ‘you’ later in your statements while responding with the pronoun of ‘I.’ Such as, ‘There is no way I can truly understand the pain I have put you through and I want to support you through this the best that I can. It pains me to know I have caused you so much hurt in your heart.’

In all, these skills are to build empathy and intimacy with your wife. The thoughts and feelings of the relationship will ebb and flow as the issues are worked through. The communication problem solving steps will have to be another article. But for now, it is important to clarify that when your wife is not attended to, acknowledged, or invited to share more of what they have on their heart and mind, the common experience and sense of feeling ‘crazy’ overcomes your spouse. Let me stress again that in listening to the communication from any person is the pathway to inviting you into their world as they experience it. Listening is sitting there with them, feeling and experiencing the world that person lives in. If the information being shared is abused, made fun of, not attended, acknowledged or invited to expound upon, one will commonly shut down. Listening is truly about following not leading. If you want to super charge the intimacy of communication, practice the basic skills of listening.

Thoughts on Grief in Recovery

Thoughts on Grief in Recovery: grieving the relationship with sexual sin that was so familiar.

Perhaps you have grieved over the death of a family member or close friend. The time following a death is very painful and full of all sorts of emotions. Usually there is closure. There is a body, people send flowers and bring food. Some may sit and talk with you as you reminisce the fond times you spent together. Some may laugh at the stories and some may cry with you. There is a funeral, a gathering of loved ones who grieve their own relationship to the one who was lost. There is the burial, the cemetery, a stone marking the life span of the one who is now gone from your life. Born,died, The recovery from your loss does not end at the cemetery. It continues for a long time.

We all grieve in different ways. The depth and pain of our grief correlates with the level of attachment to the one we lost. The death of a neighbor down the street or someone at the office will not have the impact as the death of a parent, spouse or child. The extent of your grief over the loss of a pet is determined by the relationship you have with the pet. The closer you are to the one you lost, the greater the pain and work of the grief you bare.

Have you considered the fact that someone does not have to die to initiate grief? We face loses daily. As I look into the mirror, I am reminded of the loss of my youth. The grey hair and wrinkles in my face are tell-tell signs that youth has passed. Not to mention the aches and pains that accompany the aging process. We may grieve the loss of health, the loss of a job, the loss of our home to fire. We may grieve the loss of friendships due to a move. There are “good” losses that are grieved, like the loss of a child to college, to marriage or a job in another town or state. These are what we raised our children for and are to be celebrated but when the time comes, we grieve the fact that they won’t be coming home for dinner and they no longer live in our home. They now turn to their spouse for their encouragement, help, conversation, and affection instead of dad.

When we face such losses we expect to find empathy, support, understanding, encouragement, comfort, and hope. We expect people to understand or at least accept our emotional out-burst or anger which is our protest against what has been taken from us. But what support, understanding, comfort, and empathy do we receive from the loss of one of our closest companions? The one who has consoled us when we have been rejected? The one who understood when we were tired and just needed release from the pressures of life? The one who provided companionship when we were lonely? The one who filled our appetite when we were hungry? The one who would always calm our anger, no matter how obnoxiously we showed it to the world or how deeply we buried it inside? This is the friend that was most trusted and would be there for us to comfort and console. This friend always satisfied our burning desire. This friend, you know, the one who is written about in Proverbs 7: 15ff.

“I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with caresses. With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.”

Our “friend,” the one we have turned to in times of need has been there to meet us, to comfort, seduce and entice us. But something has happened to the relationship with that “friend.” This is the “friend” that represents your sexual acting out. It is your illicit sexual partner, whether she is internet pornography, chat room, phone sex, prostitutes, massage parlors, one night stands, bar pick-ups, or a sexual relationship that has developed over time. And you have made a decision to end it. Whether it was you’re your choice or whether the choice was forced upon you by “getting caught.” Hopefully you realized that the above passage from Scripture did not end there. There was more as we pick up in verse 23:

Suddenly he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver;

As a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.

If you have ended the relationship that has been so much a part of your life, you will grieve the loss as you would a death. A major part of your life has been amputated and you grieve. It helps to understand the stages of grief in order to identify what you need to do to work through your grief.

*Dr. H. Norman Wright lists the stages of grief as follows:

  • Loss
  • Shock
  • Numbness
  • Denial
  • Emotional Outbursts
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Searching’s
  • Disorganization
  • Panic
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Re-Entry Troubles
  • New Relationships
  • New Strengths
  • New Patterns
  • Hope
  • Affirmation
  • Helping Others
  • Loss
  • Adjustment

As you think about the stages in light of the loss of your sexual sin, your trusted companion through thick and thin could look like this:

  • Shock – sin exposed. Out of our shock and disbelief we want to minimize the loss. Lies are often employed to try to cover the shame of the exposure.
  • Numbness – A loss of feeling. Breathing has all but stopped and is very shallow.
  • Denial – This is only temporary. I can still maintain my secret life. This is not a permanent loss. Here we are leaving the door unlocked for future opportunities to act out.
  • Emotional Outburst – May come in arguments with spouse or others. These outburst are a flood of emotions from sorrow, anxiety, sadness, rage, vindictiveness, betrayal, helplessness, rejection, abandonment, envy, woe, depression, panic, dismay, apathy, anguish, resentment, inadequacy. As Dr. Wright explains these emotions are like a tangled ball of emotions.
  • Anger – A protest to the unfairness of the loss. This anger may come in arguments with your spouse or others. Or it could be internalized and suppressed in a form of resentment toward others, a seething within the heart.
  • Fear – How will I cope without my friend who satisfies my cravings for my lust?
  • Searching’s – Maybe there is a hidden magazine or perhaps I could just do some internet surfing and maybe something would pop up “unexpectedly.”
  • Disorganization – In the past life was well organized. It had to be to hide the secret life. Now it is exposed and life is in chaos.
  • Panic – How will I cope? What will the future bring? Will I loose my family? Friends? Job? More questions than answers.
  • Guilt – that says “I did something bad.” To Shame that says “I am bad.”
  • Loneliness – The times you normally would have acted out sexually now you face the reality of feeling really alone. This is one of the triggers that leads to acting out.
  • Isolation – pulling away from relationships. Again isolation provides opportunity to relapse.
  • Depression – Inward focusing on the shame and guilt that underline your feelings of unworthiness.
  • Re-Entry Troubles – Learning about the true intimacy that you have been substituting with false intimacy for years. True intimacy is about knowing and being known without the secrecy and masks. It is about acceptance of self and others, as well as responsibility.
  • New Relationships – Learning to have accountability with guys who you can have an openness of heart. A heart that holds no secret compartments. Learning to laugh with other men and building true friendships.
  • New Strengths – Investing in new hobbies and activities with others.
  • New Patterns – May involve going to bed together with your spouse instead of staying up waiting for opportunities to indulge with the old “friend.” New Patterns may involve deeper levels of communication. Family togetherness without TV.
  • Hope – Life can be good without the old “friend.” The confirmation that you can live without this influence in my life.
  • Affirmation – A sense of wholeness. A sense that the addiction can be managed.
  • Helping Others – By being real and transparent with other men you will lead and have influence in the lives of other men as a role model.

What makes the grief work most difficult in the loss of the sexual acting out is that most of the time, at least in the early stages, you may be grieving alone and without empathy from your family and friends. This grief work is necessary and the pain is reality. Ignoring these deep emotional needs will become a set up for relapse into the old patterns of life. By processing the stages of grief you will find peace and healing. Experiencing the true intimacy with your wife is far greater than the quick substitute of the false intimacy with the “old friendship” you have chosen to let die.

Meeting with a counselor to identify the losses and help process the grief and recovery is not only recommended but is essential.

Craig Boden

If you have not already attended Every Man’s Battle we encourage you to do so.

After you have attended Every Man’s Battle we encourage you to attend our New Life Weekend with your spouse.

Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle

Kent Ernsting

I was smitten from my first sight of him. The first time I held my newborn son in my hands the tears began to well up in my eyes. A deep sense of love enveloped me when I looked into his amazing eyes. I loved that little guy with everything within me. I thanked God for him and I pledged him back to God from that moment. I was struck with the tremendous stewardship responsibility that I now had, to raise him to become a godly young man. I knew that I could not complete that task without God’s help and the help of many others along the way.

Now he’s 14 years old, stands 5’8′ tall, and he’s strong enough to fold me into a pretzel. He routinely aces me on the tennis court. He’s a fullback on his freshman soccer team and he feels responsible for every ball that an opponent gets past him and into the net. He’s smart and brave and he wants to show others that he has what it takes to be a man. I will probably not know if I have successfully completed my task of parenting him until he is in his thirties. The indicator will be whether or not he is living a God -honoring life and rearing godly children.

I don’t know about you, but the challenge of shepherding my son through his young adult years with purity as the goal has been a daunting one for me. How can I talk to him about purity when my own sexuality has been complicated? I have had to deal with my own issues on the subject. We all know intuitively that we need to be the one talking to our kids about sex, but how do we do it?

I am an imperfect parent, but I want to pass along some tips and strategies that I have learned from others and have used with my son.

The first is the principle that RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST. As long as I keep the relationship that I have with my son strong, then he will be willing to receive guidance and coaching from me. As Josh McDowell says, RULES WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP LEADS TO REBELLION.

I look for ways to spend time with him. Relationship growth occurs when we do things together like going to his games, working together on projects, playing pool with him, and taking him camping with me. It helps me to relate to my son and for my son to relate to me. Relationships are what life is all about.

I want him to know deeply and intimately how to connect with another person in a life-long committed relationship. I want him to experience it first in our father/son relationship. Eventually he will transfer that into a relationship with his wife.

Sex education is really not so much a matter of providing information as it is a matter of deliberate character formation. The first messages are the most potent; it is far more powerful to form a child’s view of sexuality from scratch than it is to correct the distortions the child will pick up in the world. This is a concept that I picked up from a very helpful book by Stanton and Brenna Jones, entitled How & When to Tell Your Kids About Sex. In fact, it was their book that gave me what I needed to know and say to my son when we had our first ‘key talk’ in a local restaurant. After I finished my explanation he asked, ‘Dad, do you eat that green stuff?’ as he pointed to the parsley on my plate.

I took my son camping for a weekend before he entered junior high school. Together we listened to the ‘Preparing for Adolescence’ tapes by James Dobson and we talked about the content of the tapes. Between disc golf and fishing we discussed what would be happening to him in the coming years.

We spent a weekend at a sexual abstinence until marriage conference interacting with various speakers, presentations and youth events. We went to a Promise Keeper rally for youth where the message o purity was presented through music, worship, extreme sports, speakers, and multimedia.

I take him to church regularly and help him plug in with youth groups and their events. Now he is attending Young Life where the message of purity will be reinforced. I want him to know about redemption when he stumbles and about the love of his creator sustaining him throughout his life.

Look for opportunities that will challenge both you and your son such as rock climbing, rappelling, or canoeing. Bathe your son and his future wife in prayer. Let’s talk about how it turns out when our sons are in their thirties.

Please see Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.