Fraudulent Intimacy

True intimacy always comes with the risk of rejection. Whether real or perceived, when we deliberately push ourselves towards vulnerability and allow ourselves to be known there is a sense of possible rejection. And don’t we all know that risky feeling, wondering even as the words come out of our mouth if we’ll find acceptance from the person we’re sharing with? It doesn’t matter how long we’ve known the person or how recently we met, it doesn’t matter if they share our last name or not; the risk of rejection is real.

That risk is part and parcel to true intimacy.

But the benefit of true intimacy is huge! Think about the emotional benefits of being in a truly intimate relationship, where someone knows your hopes, dreams, fears, failures, passions, criticisms, insecurities, etc. and still accepts you. These words come to mind-

  • Love
  • Acceptance
  • Validation
  • Comfort
  • Safety
  • Respect
  • Security
  • Contentment
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Belonging
  • Affirmation

Who doesn’t want all that in and from a relationship?! Yet lets not forget…all these come with the risk of rejection. To fully accept the acceptance we long for we must be fully known (to the extent we can know ourselves, for all you existentialists out there). Without being fully known, good, bad and ugly, in the back of our minds we’ll always be asking, “if you really knew me, if you really knew what goes on in my head and in my life, would you still accept me”?

Enter false or fraudulent intimacy.

Fraudulent intimacy is something that resembles true intimacy, giving a brief expression of the benefits, while minimizing and sometimes completely eradicating the risk. The allure is that for a moment, while acting out sexually, we can feel a little dose of love, acceptance, comfort, belonging, etc. without having to risk our hearts by being fully known. But it’s a fraud, ever convincing us that what we’re experiencing is real when all along its smoke and mirrors. The emotional benefits are fleeting, quickly replaced by shame, guilt and a desire to hide. True intimacy always promotes openness, vulnerability and connection. Fraudulent intimacy promotes shame, hiding and isolation.

Remember, the antidote to sexual acting out with pornography, strip clubs, prostitutes and affairs is true intimacy.

Silent Struggle

Last week Shelley and I both had the privilege of speaking at Biola University in La Mirada, Ca. We’ve had other opportunities to speak to students at schools and ministry events through Campus Crusade for Christ, and every time we are blown away.

There is so little pretense.

It is almost like they haven’t had enough time in the Christian sub-culture to figure out they need to wear masks. Or maybe better said, there is still enough sensitivity in their heart that when they are invited into authenticity and transparency they can throw caution to the wind and enter that sacred space.

Shelley and I challenged the students to make a decision to be radically vulnerable about their struggles. We urged them to risk rejection and take the first step to open up. We tried to help them understand the value and reward of true intimacy. We talked about teenage pregnancy, bestiality, shame, guilt, pornography, sex addiction, anorexia and body image, work-aholism, abortion, forgiveness and redemption.

The stories that were relayed back to us from students covered all these topics and more. They were vulnerable, gritty, sometimes empowering and made us want to cheer, other times painful and hopeless, bringing us to tears.

Interestingly, two consistent themes came out as we engaged the students’ stories. First, the reality of a silent struggle. So many times we heard, “I’ve never told anyone” or “I’m afraid to tell anyone that I’ve…” I even received a handwritten letter from a student describing her shame and disappointment of struggling with repetitive sexual sin, and I’m the first person she has told [written to].

The second theme was that of divorce in the home. Several students came up and said their folks are currently or have recently divorced due to sexual integrity issues. One girl, in tears, talked about how at 20 she’s realizing that her father’s sexual sin has affected her deeply. It pains her to see her mom so resentful and bitter, and her dad simply declares it covered in the blood of Jesus so it doesn’t need to be spoken of again. Heartbreaking.

All in all, I walked away from that campus with hope. Hope because of the raw, unfiltered, willingness of the students to engage difficult topics. Hope because the faculty and staff decided its important enough to address from the main stage and create an open dialogue about. Hope because God is still in the business of redemption and those stories we heard are, for many, a turning point that will change the entire course of their lives and legacies.

If you are in the silent struggle, it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. If you are the ones divorcing with college age children, it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. Change, real lasting change, may be right around the corner.

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.