Cross-Addiction

Connie wrote in asking for us to do a segment about cross-addiction. Why is it so easy to go from one addiction, like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, to another problem behavior, like overeating?  – Click here to watch.

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Romance Cool Down

When Mandy first started dating her boyfriend 5 months ago, he was quite the romantic; sending heartfelt love letters and spontaneous gifts and calling mid-day just to remind her that he missed her. But once they fell in love and started talking about marriage all that behavior cooled to a few phone calls and visits per week. He says it’s normal male behavior. Mandy’s asking “Is this normal?” Watch the video.

Choosing to heal

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New Life Live: June 14, 2011

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Topics: Reconciliation, Forgiveness, In-laws, Father Issues, Separation, Parenting

Hosts: Steve Arterburn, Dr. Sheri Denham, Milan Yerkovich

Caller Questions:
1. How do I reconnect with my wife after 3yrs of separation?
2. I need to forgive my mother-in-law’s behavior toward my alcoholic husband.
3. How can I relate to my dad? He has changed over the years.
4. Should I leave my abusive husband who uses drugs?
5. My son died and I want to know how I can stay in my 9yo grandson’s life.

Suggested Resources:
How We Love
Changes That Heal
Boundaries
Healing Is a Choice

Rebuilding Trust in Marriage

by Bob Damrau

‘Our lives will never be the same,’ voiced my wife as we drove home from our respective 12-Step groups. Then, we looked at each other and smiled with the realization that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Repairing our marriage was not easy, yet the hard work was yielding a sense of connection that neither of us ever thought possible.

When trust is violated by sexual sin, our spouse’s emotions are damaged and those feelings will not heal overnight. Rebuilding trust in a marriage cracked by infidelity (in mind and/or body) requires our full surrender, intentionality, and persistence.

SURRENDER

Our personal relationship with God exemplifies the beginning of building trust. When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus we effectively give up control. This is a one-time decision with ongoing ramifications. So, too, surrendering our sexual wills over to God takes place at a particular time (usually when the realization of not being in control hits home), yet the battles are won and godly character is built on a daily basis ‘ sometimes moment by moment.

The defects that once defined me (liar, control freak, manipulator’) have been replaced with a spirit of openness and transparency. When once my wife doubted my sincerity, now she sees me as a changed man disciplined by our Abba Father. Recognizing this sacredness validates our efforts to love and respect one another. But rebuilding trust doesn’t end with simple sincerity because a spouse will also doubt her compulsive husband’s ability to change his long standing behaviors.

INTENTIONALITY

It is a paradox that by giving up our lives we get them back. The hidden blessing of purposefully working through our stuff is that we’ll never be the same, but better and healthier. The same is true of relationships. Have you ever agreed to something before you felt like doing it? When we seek to rebuild trust, we may not feel trust or that we are trustworthy, but we can stay committed to try. This will send a signal to our spouses that we may have what it takes to make the necessary changes.

The ability to make significant personal changes was demonstrated to my wife by following a structured plan of recovery. If you have attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop you received an outline describing the elements needed for recovery. Put that plan into action then share it with her. Trust and honest communication work hand-in-hand, and as she watches you fulfill your plan she’ll know you have what it takes to get it right.

It is worth noting here that the shame identity at the core of an addict’s belief system can still speak to us. It says, ‘I must hide my true self because no one will accept who I really am.’ This can cause us to withhold information and continue to live the lie. Our wives interpret our isolating behavior to mean we really don’t love them, so keep talking and working the whole plan. Over time you’ll be seen as an able husband.

PERSISTENCE

Willing and able must be calendar tested. Many times when a sexually compulsive person repents of his sin, he expects his partner to trust him immediately. Don’t go there! Consistent behavior over the seasons of life rebuilds trust. In sexual addiction this is called maintaining sobriety.

Some marriages have involved lies for years. Restoring trust, when both partners work at it, can take between 18-30 months. My repentant spirit coupled with my consistent behaviors relegated trust to the back burner in just under two years ‘ a drop in the bucket for a lifelong partner.

One of my favorite bible verses is Joel 2:25, which promises, ‘God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.’ My wife and I are experiencing the import of that promise in terms of intimacy. Prior to my disclosure and work of rebuilding trust we had only a surface intimacy. Since then our level of connectedness is deeper and more fulfilling. So give it your full surrender, intentionality, and persistence. Never being the same can be a good thing.

In addition to the Every Man’s Battle Workshop we have two programs designed to help you and your spouse. See Every Heart Restored–for wives of men struggling with sexual purity and Rescue Your Love Life–for couples.

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.

Spiritual Leadership

Steve Arterburn

 

 

In an article in Psychology Today, psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple wrote that twenty years earlier, when he first began to practice, no one ever complained of a lack of self-esteem or of hating himself. Now, he wrote, hardly a week goes by without a patient making that complaint. One young man concerned about his low self-image came to visit him. In fact, the young man and his mother said this condition caused him to beat up his pregnant girlfriend, which resulted in a miscarriage.

The doctor said to him, ‘It couldn’t be the other way around, could it?’

‘What do you mean,’ replied the young man.

‘That your behavior,’ said the doctor ’caused you to have a poor opinion of yourself.’

The patient, of course, wasn’t too happy with this suggestion.

I like the question Dalrymple posed to this young man, and I think it bears consideration. When a man sees himself as inadequate it is for one of two reasons:

Either he literally doesn’t have the ability necessary to be adequate (for example, I am inadequate to perform brain surgery)

Or, he has the ability but has retreated into a passive place.

Have you allowed your passive behavior to create a self-image of inadequacy? Perhaps you don’t feel adequate to lead your family or to love your wife. I think a change of behavior would go a long way toward dispelling this image. Sometimes the head and hands have to lead, to show the heart where to go.

Full Disclosure

Larry Colclasure, M.S., LPC

Disclosure, as I’m sure we all know, is one of the toughest processes to go through. There is no good way to disclose, it is not a natural process, it is the result of the enemy and sin.

The first step to making a good disclosure is to go from defense to offense. We have been defensive for a long time, trying to hide what we have been doing, trying to cover our tracks, trying to find time to get away, to act out, and even lying to the most important people in our lives. It is time to stop defending these behaviors, admit the truth and get on the offense for our recovery (which includes our connection with God), marriage, and relationships. We choose to attack our sickness and our sin for these reasons and the front line of the battle is honesty.

There are a couple of big mistakes that many of us make at this time.

The first one is to hold back some things, to only do a partial disclosure. This takes some real balance. It is not good just to go to your spouse and vomit all your guilt. You might feel better, but your spouse will not feel good at all after being vomited on. At the same time, if you just admit to a portion of your behaviors, when the rest becomes known, it is much harder and more painful to deal with. And the rest always seems to become known. So it is best to disclose all the behaviors, types of behaviors, places we have acted out, and if we have acted out with someone our spouse knows, they need to know that name. Our spouse does not need to know any gory details or specifics. It is very common for a spouse to start asking a lot of questions. I recommend that we agree to answer any questions she has if she will take a month to pray about her need to know and get counsel about this first.

The second mistake is to start justifying what we have done and why we have done it. Our spouse is not interested in the why right now. It is time to admit the truth, take ownership of our decisions and our sickness. Trying to justify will usually just stir up more anger from our spouse.

The third mistake is to blame others for our behavior. Other people have impacted us and the reasons for our sickness are many, but now is not the time to discuss this. It is time to own my stuff, stay present, and take what I have coming to me.

That brings up the next issue which is, what I have coming to me. Most of the time, the addict has been escalating in behavior, hiding more and more, taking more and more time and getting farther away from relationships. It is often a real release to get this all out and still be alive. For the spouse, it is usually just the opposite. She has been going along thinking things are okay, or not sure about things, and then this bomb is dropped. She is reeling from this and trying to deal with emotions, thoughts, and consequences. She needs time and space to have her reactions. This timing is different for each person.

This is why it is so important to get some support and guidance. If I am not a home builder, it would not be too smart to tear my house apart and rebuild it without some guidance and help. If I am not an electronics specialist, it would not be too smart to tear my TV apart and try to repair it. I believe, and my experience has shown, that our marriages and relationships are much more complicated than any building or TV set. Therefore I believe it is very important to get some guidance and support.

This will come in three areas, first for the disclosure, then for the addict after disclosure to continue his journey in recovery, and for the spouse to deal with the damage and to rebuild.

Like I said, there is no perfect way to do disclosure, but I would like to share a model that can give some guidance. First is to list what you have done. Write this out and give it some time to make sure you have all that needs to be said and only what needs to be said. You will need some help with this. Second, list why you are stopping the behavior, why you are wanting to change. Third is to list what you are doing right now to stop the behavior and to attack your sickness and sin. Fourth is what you are going to do in the future to make sure you do not return to this behavior. I know that we can relapse any day, but we can have actions and plans in place to help us make the right choices each day too. And last is to list what your hopes, dreams, and wishes are for this relationship in the future. Where do you want to be in two years, five years, and ten years with this person?

Sometimes a spouse is not willing to hear any more than the first step. That is okay, that’s where she is right now. I need the other steps to understand that I am on the offense and know where I am headed. My ability to stay focused in this direction and continue in my recovery is the best tool I have to win her back.

For help, please see Every Man’s Battle.
There is also great help for your spouse. Please encourage her to join us at our next New Life Weekend.

The Oyster and the Pearl: 10 Tips for Dealing with Jerks!

Steve Arterburn

1. Realize that you can’t please everyone ‘ even Jesus had trouble with that. ‘And there was a grumbling among the multitudes concerning Him; some were saying, ‘He is a good man'; others were saying, ‘No, on the contrary, He leads the multitude astray'” (John 7:12).

2. Difficult people thrive in the center of controversy. ‘Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,’ says Proverbs 26:21, ‘so is a contentious man to kindle strife.’ Don’t be drawn into unnecessary situations. Misery really does love company!

3. Set clear personal boundaries for appropriate behavior with difficult people. Communicate with them in a gentle, but clear manner.

4. Never retaliate. In the mind of the difficult person, it justifies their behavior.

5. If you have a moment of rational communication with a difficult person, try to help them see how destructive their behavior is to themselves, their family and their career.

6. When a difficult person goes into attack mode or excessive defensiveness, recognize that it is useless to argue with them. ‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him’ (Proverbs 26:4).

7. Learn to recognize when your defense mechanisms come up. Realize that getting defensive will only exacerbate the process of dealing with difficult people.

8. A difficult person’s behavior is really out of your control. Pray for them and let God deal with them. ‘Love your enemies,’ said Jesus, ‘and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44).

9. When you’re facing on-going communication problems with a difficult person, it’s often helpful to invite the help of a neutral third party to facilitate the process of better communication.

10. Take advantage of the many books, tapes and helpful guides that deal with this common issue.

Behavior Change And Heart Change

Dave McWilliams

Most of us, at one time or another, have wished that we were a different person. These thoughts may come to us when things are not going well or in times when we are in trouble. We may feel shallow or inadequate in these times. Our behavior may have been offensive or unacceptable to others, and we may be embarrassed or overcome with guilt.

Change is very difficult for all of us. What about those of us who have gone through devastating situations, such as a hurricane or flooding, where we have lost a lot of what we own. Perhaps we have moved to a new location and changed jobs, and everything is now different. We can feel lost and left out in many ways. Things may never be the same again. Or we may have lost a friend who has been very close to us and supported us in many ways, and the pain is almost unbearable.

When it comes to making personal changes in our lives, it can be just as difficult. Often the focus is on changing our behaviors and our habits, but these are often not long lasting. As an example, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, only to abandon them within a few weeks, because it was too difficult to maintain the new behaviors and habits. More often than not, our efforts are pointed at negative habits and behaviors and we put a lot of effort into trying to avoid them. It often does not occur to us to ask ourselves what to do to replace these behaviors.

While heart changes are more lasting, they cannot be made all at one time. They are not an event, but a process or a journey. In the mean time, we cannot ignore our behavior that is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves. If we are an alcoholic, or a gambler, or we struggle with pornography, our behaviors should not be excused while working on building our character.

The apostle Paul talked about making changes in our lives in Colossians 2:20-3:17. He pointed out that when we try to make changes in our lives through rules and regulations, or by trying to restrict our poor behaviors, failure is soon to follow. In his day (as in our time) people would say ‘don’t touch’ or ‘ don’t taste’, which really is nothing more than mere human effort to control our poor indulgences. But Paul pointed out that these rules and restrictions ‘lack any value in restraining our sensual indulgences’ (Col.2:23).

The best phase of our life to focus on restricting our poor behaviors is childhood. The duty of good parenting is to help us to recognize what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The down side to this process is that no parent has it all together as to what is good and bad behavior. When we made poor choices, the way that they were managed had an effect on us, some positive, and others were destructive. The guilt that followed those destructive attempts to change our behavior will remain in our minds for many years until we are finally freed from them. While our minds are filled with the thoughts of guilt, we seldom have the clarity of thought to find direction in our lives. Feelings of loss and confusion block us from finding our way.

Real and lasting change comes from a different place than focusing on our behavior. Lasting change comes from change in our hearts as we take the focus off ourselves and onto the needs and concerns of others as well as our own. Behavior change is external and is often done to deceive others, or to avoid our pain, etc. Heart change does not deny our behaviors, but focuses on internal and character change. Heart change has a purpose in mind that is greater than our own needs and desires. We begin to become aware of how our actions and choices effect others and their well being, as well as our own.

There is another powerful factor that is involved with making changes from the heart, and that is coming to the realization that we cannot do it on our own.

Real heart change comes only through the power of the Spirit of God working in our lives. This is different than behavior change, which is done mostly in our own human efforts. When our human efforts fail, we continue to carry enormous guilt. The opposite result comes as we focus on change from the heart. This change will usually result in freedom within our thoughts, thus giving us the ability to think about life situations much more clearly. We also refer to the results of this type of change as bringing us inner peace.

Paul talked about ways to achieve inner peace as we change from the heart. He sited several concepts of life that will help our hearts grow. Some of these things are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and bearing with each other. There are many ways to display these principles to others. God did not assign to us only one way to carry out any of these life principles. These principles are found as we seek God’s direction in each and every circumstance in our lives. And as we display them, we let others decide how to use them effectively. For example, if we are going to be compassionate to our spouses, we will let them define the most effective way to show compassion, otherwise it is nothing more than a selfish act.

There is another benefit in changing from the heart. It takes a lot of the pressure out of life. Behavior change usually results in trying to achieve perfection, and usually trying to make it quickly to avoid pain. This is real stress and anxiety and worry over what others will think of us. It often leaves us angry and defensive with others, as they point out our flaws. Heart change accepts our flaws as a part of who we are in the moments that they are revealed. The pain is used to help us change and grow. But the growth process is done without a sense of urgency. Change becomes a journey that is at times slow but consistent. Our flaws and weaknesses are seen as opportunities to work with those flaws so that they become more acceptable to others. Thus, our weaknesses do not totally define us as a person.

For help with sexual integrity, see Every Man\’s Battle.
If you need help in other areas, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Apologies

Deborah Tyrell

‘So if you remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.’ (Matthew 5: 23-24)

My marriage has provided me with many opportunities to apologize. In fact, I’ve had so much practice that now when I realize that I have acted ‘less than loving’ towards my husband, I usually am aware of my behavior at least as soon as he is. There are still those times when he has to point out my offensive behavior.

However, now instead of defending myself, I apologize that he had to show it to me before I saw it. I ‘own’ it and apologize that he had to deal with it.

I have not always had so much grace in this area. There were times in the past that I used an apology to manipulate. If I recognized that my behavior was about to reap an unpleasant consequence, I would rush to apologize. My message was, ‘Please don’t get angry. I have apologized so now you should not hold me accountable.’ My apology was an attempt to control his mood.

At other times, I would demand an apology from my husband. I came to realize that an apology extracted in this way is worth little. His apology to get me off ‘his back’ did not indicate sorrow for his behavior. I learned it only meant he was afraid of my disapproval and criticism if he refused my demand. A false apology has no redemptive meaning or value.

An apology is very personal. By it, your loved one knows that you are distressed by your harmful behavior. It demonstrates genuine sorrow and accepts responsibility for your actions.

One of the steps to maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is promoted in many recovery groups is to ‘continue to take daily inventories and when wrong, promptly admit it.’ Consider making this a daily practice. If you do, you will create an opportunity for closeness as well as a commitment to avoiding further harm. But no matter how the one you have apologized to responds, God honors a contrite heart and He will accept your sacrifice.

God, give me the courage to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Remind me that it is through the door of humility that I have a chance to reconcile with those whom I have offended. And through Jesus Christ, I have a guarantee to reconcile with you! For ‘the Holy One says this: I live in that high and holy place where those with contrite, humble spirits dwell; and I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts—I will lead them and comfort them, helping them to mourn and to confess their sins’ (Isaiah 57:15). Amen.