You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Irreconcilable Differences

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me an article written by a clergyman, in which he discusses the idea of irreconcilable differences. It was a revelation to me, and got me thinking about the way marriage is going in our country these days: Downhill.

Before we begin, let me just say that there certainly are circumstances in which a divorce is permitted in the minds of even the staunchest Christian. No one believes that you must stay together when your spouse has committed adultery, and if you have been abandoned without word for years, this also qualifies as a reason to be divorced. I personally also adhere to the belief that when one spouse becomes abusive physically, this is a deal breaker. However, in the first case, that of adultery, I have worked with many couples who can repair their marriages through counseling and spiritual work, and this is a good thing, since divorce really is a horrible thing, most notably on the spiritual level.

The premise that was set forth in the article was this: Men and women by nature, are created to have irreconcilable differences. They are made to complement one another, to join together in a mystical union. If we look at the book of Ephesians, this mystery of union is compared to the joining of the human and Divine natures of Christ. Those two natures simply cannot be joined together, since they are qualitatively different. And yet, it happens: A mystery.  This is the highest view of marriage possible, and one which obviously has pretty much disappeared in our self-absorbed society.  So, while this view has obtained for thousands of years, it is suddenly non-functional. Let’s look at why this might be.

What is the Purpose of the Family?

No one can doubt that the family is the basic unit, the fundamental organism of society. Without stable families, a situation unknown until our present times, society will begin to come apart. Without stable families, people become mere individuals, living for themselves, unable to invest in others, unable to sacrifice for others. We see this process happening all over our society, and few have understood that this situation is an entirely new societal formation. Families are no longer required in order to have children. Families are no longer stable multi-generational groups who live in love and care. All is fragmented, broken, disjointed. Of course, there are millions who still adhere to the old ways, but over time, the preponderance of those prizing the individual over the family will tip the balance, and families will go the way of the horse and buggy. Replacing them will be various assortments of people living together with little or no commitment to the family’s health. Of course, all will suffer, but especially the children. We can already see this happening right now.

Myths about Marriage

In order for this breakdown of the family to occur, it is necessary for alternate theories to dominate the national psyche. While families were relatively stable until the Twentieth century, when divorce laws began liberalizing across the western world, there is at present very little non-spiritual incentive to stay together. Even though researchers have demonstrated that children of divorce have trouble in their own marital (or non-marital) relationships, this fact has done little to stem the tide of divorces. Why?

There are many myths which swirl about in the ether, and they are both powerful and seductive. Some of them are:

  1. I have a right to be happy in my marriage. If I’m not happy, I can pull the plug and move on to someone who makes me happy.
  2. I need to find my soulmate. My current spouse is not on the same wavelength as I.
  3. My spouse and I are as different as oil and water. We are just different people, and we need to find new spouses have similar interests.
  4. I don’t love my spouse any more. There is someone else whom I feel attracted to, and I want to love that new person.

You’ve all heard these arguments for divorce, and over them all, like a banner are the words:  Irreconcilable differences.  Yes, you and your spouse do have irreconcilable differences, because that is the essence of marriage. That is the basis for the sacrifice you are called to make in forming a family made up of those who have different wills than our own. Bridezillas aside, we don’t always get our own way when we marry. It may be necessary to submit our will to that of another: a spiritual exercise of the highest order.

The ideas that there is someone else “better” for us out there is a temptation to be resisted at all costs. We have chosen our spouse, and failing the major impediments to marriage mentioned above, our job is to find a way to live joyfully within those boundaries.  It is certain that no children desire their parents divorce, unless there is criminal behavior, such as assault, being demonstrated in the home. Is there drunkenness or other substance abuse? This is another spiritual matter that needs fixing, and it may promote the need to separate until it is dealt with.

But, since men and women are different qualitatively, it is ludicrous to bemoan that fact, and cite it as grounds for divorce. It is actually grounds for marriage! The desire to join together in union with another soul different from our own is the basis for marriage, and the programme is this:  I will spend my life serving this person, and will be faithful to the other until death. It is a serious vow one makes, and finding it difficult is no cause for release from it. Temptation to do so is all around us, but if it is recognized as such, we can fight against it.

The only other thoughts which this idea of the “rightness” of irreconcilable differences brought to my mind was this: If these differences are the essence of marriage, according to God, what does this say about those who try to bypass these difficulties by marrying another person who is very similar? I am referring, of course, to gay marriages.

The idea of marrying someone alike short circuits most of the inherent struggles faced by those following the mystical plan of marriage instituted by God.  These couples can never know the fullness of the mystery of union between a man and a woman, and the homosexuals’ decision to call what they do “marriage” does not present a comparable struggle.  Can I unite myself to another whose very being is mysterious to me? Can I take a chance and see if love can flow from this union, if children will be sent us through this mystical union? This is the dignity and grace of marriage as instituted by God, and no other arrangement contrived by man can compare.

The Challenge and Importance of Disclosure – Part 2

When inappropriate sexual behavior is discovered, it’s natural for men to attempt “damage control,” by minimizing, rationalizing, excusing, or denying their behavior. We fear our wife will leave if the full extent of our behavior is known. Or we may just want to spare our wife more pain. We want an easy way out, but there is no such way.

Both the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous, and SAA’s similar book, Hope and Recovery caution against disclosing too quickly or too much, and to talk to their group members first. But the writers were predominantly males who were deciding what was best for their wives without consulting them.

When wives are asked what they want they overwhelmingly say they want to be in charge of how much is disclosed, and to have their feelings of violation and betrayal validated by their husband. So, our disclosure is best guided by our wife’s desire to know, rather than by our desire to get out of it.

Wives often describe their reactions to the disclosure in terms of despair, devastation, and hopelessness. Although they may initially consider ending the relationship, most choose to stay and work it through. But, for trust to be restored in our marriage we have to be honest and vulnerable.

There are several things we need to be aware of. First, it’s important that we be reasonable in accepting our wife’s emotions. Allow and accept her rage, confusion and depression. Begin by accepting her anger and demands. These are common signs that she is hurting because of your behavior.

Second, keep in mind that this is not the time to preach and demand forgiveness. What is called for is genuine humility and ‘godly sorrow’ (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Third, it is important that we seek to educate our wife about our recovery process. Let her know what you’re dealing with ‘ masturbation, pornography, illicit contact. Explain your recovery plan so she knows what you’re actually doing to establish and maintain sobriety. Reassure her that she is still the primary focus of your love.

Once you’ve disclosed, your wife will likely make demands and set boundaries. It’s similar to losing your credit rating with the bank ‘ they have to set up new terms, including higher monthly payments. See her demands as requests she needs to rebuild trust. Being truly authentic about the healing and restoration process means forbearing her pain ‘ taking the emotional blow and hanging in there even when it’s uncomfortable.

Some wives want a policy of on-going disclosure, usually to protect themselves from any further pain.

Though total disclosure is not healthy because she’ll become your accountability partner instead of your wife, it may be necessary in the beginning. Honor this desire and show your willingness to do whatever it takes. Meanwhile, be sure to find an accountability partner to actively take this responsibility off your wife.

Instead of total disclosure it is better that we commit to ‘some disclosure.’ This pertains to any significant difficulty or struggle with lust. If you set up a policy of ‘no disclosure’ (except if you act out), be sure you accompany it with accountability elsewhere. Some of us have to face the fall out of our wife’s broadcast to our kids, family, and friends. This can become very poisonous to the family. If this happens go to each person and talk to them individually, offering appropriate repentance. Share your plans for dealing with the problem. Bringing it ‘to the light’ allows for the possibility of restored relationship and forgiveness (1 John 1:7).

Finally, there are a few possible exceptions to full disclosure. First, you may want to remain silent about affairs from a long time ago in order to protect your wife from additional hurt for something that no longer poses any threat to your marriage. But be honest with yourself and with any desire you may have to continue it in the future. Revealing this may disarm it from having any importance to you.

Second, there are some rare cases where disclosure may be different. For example, if your wife is terminally ill, mentally ill, or emotionally unstable to extent that her life is at risk–in this case loving your wife means disclosing and working wholeheartedly with an accountability partner, a band of brothers, and your pastor.

You desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. (Psalm 51:6)

If your marriage has been affected by a lack of sexual integrity, we recommend two healing options.
Every Man’s Battle for men and for couples The New Life Weekend.