Reblog: The 6 Things Needed for a Healthy Family

by Boundaries

Believe it or not, there’s not a huge difference between leading at work and leading at home.

In fact, if we asked some of our colleagues who actually liked their statistics courses about the predictive validity of certain leadership traits in creating healthy families, my guess is that the number would be pretty high. And the good thing is that these are actual skills and abilities that people have and do every day at work. Our task is to get them to take those skills home!

So, if we think about it that way, what do leaders do that can be applied to creating healthy families? Here are just a few thoughts:

1. Cast a vision. One of the best fathers I know also leads an organization of thousands of people, and he takes this skill home. He gets out the white board and asks, “Ok, team, so what do we want this year to look like? At the end of the year, what do we want to have done that would make it a great year?” Or, “What does everyone want it to feel like to live here? What do we want family dinners to feel like or be like?”

He says that to get everyone working toward a positive vision, like having dinners without squabbling, gives a standard for them all to work towards, instead of just a nagging parent saying, “Kids, stop arguing with each other!” To be a family that every year learns or gets better at new skills makes piano, sports or reading seen in a different light. To have a vision of being a family that helps others sets a direction for reaching out to neighbors, or schoolmates, or learning other service oriented behaviors. Or, a vision of making it a fun year: “If we want this year to be the year of fun, what regular activities, or what vacation would be the best to do that?”

Getting the whole family involved in creating what they want their family to be like gives some tracks that will guide them down the same path.

2. Build unity. At work, leaders focus a lot on team building, unity and breaking down silos. They know that disconnection and dissent will wreck whatever they are trying to do and make life miserable for everyone. But, often they do not apply this same intentionality at home.

When you get parents asking the same strategic questions of themselves at home that they do at work, they get more engaged at building family togetherness. They begin to think about issues like these:

What settings are best to get everyone to share what is going on with them? Dinners? Family meetings? Walks around the neighborhood? Retreats or camping?
What kinds of tones do we need to set that is going to build trust?
How can I model vulnerability and acceptance that will get people to open up more?

Am I seeing anyone in particular not being a part of the team? Is anyone disconnected? How can I bring that person back in?
What fun “team bonding” activities am I regularly making sure happen? Crazy lunches? Goofy games? Bowling night for a non-bowling family?
What are some opportunities to “celebrate” victories by the individual family members?

3. Have regular meetings. No team gets where they are going without regular meetings, and the family is no exception. Family meetings can be a great regular structure where everyone talks about where they are in their individual plans, where the family is in terms of its own vision and goals that have been set, and a review of the behavioral contracts that everyone had for the week. For example, the family meeting is a great place to take the chore chart accounting and pay allowances or fines based on agreements. Also, it is a great setting to establish those expectations and have everyone talk about what the consequences will be, positive or negative, for adherence. Leaders hold their people accountable to standards of performance.

The family meeting can be a good place also to ask, “What does anyone need help with? Is there somewhere that we can pray for anyone, or help you do something?” And it is a good setting for talking about a value, or some other small lesson and asking questions like, “How are we doing in living this one out?”

4. Set stretch goals. We know from research that the happiest and most fulfilled people are people who set regular goals. I like to ask my kids to come up with their regular “stretch goals,” and share them in a family meeting. It gets them thinking of what the next “push” can be for them to stretch themselves in a particular area, and it also gives a context to check in and see how it is going. Added benefit: I have to give mine too, and it has helped me be more regular at working out!

5. Create a learning team with “continuous improvement.” Companies that thrive work hard on making their teams a place where mistakes, risks and failures are not punished, but used as an opportunity for learning. This does not mean that there is a lack of accountability or standards. But it does mean that the tone and nature of the standards are not punitive and shaming in nature. They try hard to “normalize” not getting it right so that mistakes and struggles can be shared and learned from. To make the family a place of learning, not punishment, is to create a growth environment.

6. Create and speak energy. Leaders energize, motivate and keep everyone moving. They are fuel for an organization, the fire that keeps it moving forward. So, they monitor their own energy and motivation, keeping it up and then making sure that they share it with their people. As is often said, they “speak energy” into initiatives and projects. In families, parents need to do the same thing. They need to ask themselves, first of all, “Am I motivating and inspiring everyone to get where we need to get?” And secondly, “Am I doing that in a way that creates more positive energy instead of negative energy and a drain?” In short, am I a positive charge when I walk in, or am I a drain? Leaders keep things moving forward, but they do it in a way that feels good to people.

So, it might be helpful to your clients to think of “Family Inc.” What they might find is that they already possess and practice many of the skills that it takes to be a stellar parent, and with a little focus, they could be having as much fun at home as they do at work.

Find the original article here.

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Reblog: How Do You Process Your Feelings After a Divorce?

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Divorce is, be definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved.

Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience.

When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of their divorce are in jeopardy of either never getting over it or repeating it. When I am speaking to groups of divorced people, I often talk about this in terms of dating. I tell them, “When someone you are seeing tells you that divorce wasn’t that hard on them, and they really didn’t have a difficult time with it, burn rubber out of the driveway of that house.” A person who hasn’t grieved a significant loss has unfinished business inside and can cause others great grief as a result.

What does it mean to embrace grief in divorce? It means many things, including:

  • Allowing a painful feeling to come and go, without prohibiting them.
  • Reaching out to others to comfort and support you through this, rather than going it alone.
  • Putting an end to the protests and arguments in your head about how it shouldn’t have happened, or whose fault it was or was not.

Grief doesn’t allow us to be right, strong, and in control. Grief basically says, “You loved, and you lost. It hurts.” Yet, on the other side are safe people to catch, hold and restore us.

One of the most difficult yet important tasks in grief in divorce is that of remembering and experiencing value for the loved one. Let yourself feel the love you still may bear for your former spouse, the positive emotions you have, your desires for togetherness, your appreciation for that person’s good traits and characteristics. Most people who are trying to get past divorce don’t recognize the importance of this, thinking instead that they need to be aware of the other person’s faults, sins and mistakes. Sometimes they do this out of a desire for revenge; other times it is a reaction against the need they feel for the person, which causes the fear to get hooked back in. Sometimes they do this as a way to complete the letting-go process.

Yet grief does not work this way. When you let go of a love, you are to let go of the whole person: good and bad, weaknesses and strengths, positives and negatives. When we allow only the negative feelings, we then let go only of the person we dislike, which is just a part of the whole individual. We won’t grieve the other part, the person we still love and want, and with whom we have in our memories a repository of good experiences. That person is still in our present world, still active within our heart, and causing all sorts of difficulties. Let go of the desire to see only the bad, and allow yourself to appreciate and let go of the good person you are leaving. This is the key to freedom beyond grief in divorce.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: The Ingredients that Fuel Healthy Intimacy

By Dr. Henry Cloud

A healthy sex life begins with love. Love brings a couple together and allows sex to flourish. Love encompasses sex; it’s larger than sex. Love can create the desire for sex, but when the passion of sex is over, love remains. It continues and is present with the couple, holding them close to each other and to the Author of love himself.

A large part of sexual love is knowing, and sexual love is about knowing your spouse, personally and intimately. That means you should know your partner’s feelings, fears, secrets, hurts, and dreams, and care about them – and likewise, your partner should know and care about yours.

The vulnerability of sex increases that base of knowing, as husband and wife reveal their innermost souls to each other through sexual love. By its unveiling and exposed nature, sex demands that sort of openness. In sexual intimacy two people show each other the privacy of their bodies as well as the privacy of their hearts and feelings.

Love involves the whole person: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love and sex both require an emotional connection between two people; both should be emotionally present and available. When two people can attach to each other in their hearts, a healthy sex life will emerge and develop. Yet when a couple lacks this kind of intimacy, their sex life will become atrophied because it cannot feed off the emotional connection. This can happen in several ways. Sometimes one mate will withdraw love out of anger, hurt, or a desire to punish the other. Other times one will be unable to take in or receive the other’s love. Still other times one mate has an inability to live emotionally in the world. Both people’s hearts must be available in order to connect emotionally. If this is not the case, while sex can occur, it more often than not does not have enough fuel to be ignited.

It’s also true that love, and healthy sexuality, cannot exist without trust. Because sex is such a symbol of personal exposure and vulnerability, a healthy sex life requires that couples develop a great deal of trust in each other, trust that the other person will not use what he or she knows to hurt the other person. When people trust each other, they feel free to continue their explorations of one another at deeper and deeper levels. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for trust also means “careless.” In other words, when you trust someone, you are careless with him or her. You are not anxious and fearful, editing what you say and feel. You are free to be yourself with the other person, because you can trust that he or she will not do wrong by you.

Love also changes our focus. It shifts our perspective from an emphasis on “I” to a focus on “we.” That is, in love, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It is not self-seeking; it is relationship-seeking. That’s why couples don’t talk about building their lives together. They discuss and dream about building a life together. There is a continual emphasis on how “we” are and on caring for the other person’s welfare, and when that happens, we can give ourselves to our significant other in vulnerable, yet, fulfilling ways.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: How to Forgive Someone and Set a Boundary

by Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: How to Respond When Others Reject Your Boundaries

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Usually the quiet one in her group, Heather spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Heather’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us? Absolutely. We were never the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it; some will hate it.

We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our “no.” They only love our “yes,” our compliance.

So what does Heather, whose husband is an avowed “boundary buster,” do? Will her husband carry out his threat to walk out on her? She can’t control his response. But if the only thing keeping Heather’s husband home is her total compliance, is this a marriage at all? And how will problems ever be addressed when she and he avoid them?

Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, “I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.” This person is called wise.

The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our “litmus test” experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them “no” in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy — or learn that there was very little to begin with.

Do Heather’s boundaries with her husband condemn her to a life of isolation? Absolutely not. If telling the truth causes someone to leave you, this gives you the chance to reach out to a counselor or a support group.

In no way am I advocating divorce. The point is that you can’t make anyone stay with or love you. Ultimately that is up to your partner. Sometimes setting boundaries clarifies that you were left a long time ago, in every way, perhaps, except physically. Often, when a crisis like this occurs, it helps the struggling couple reconcile and remake their marriage healthier. The problem was raised, and now can be addressed.

But a word of caution: the boundary-less spouse who develops limits begins changing in the marriage. There are more disagreements. There are more conflicts over values, schedules, money, kids, and sex. Quite often, however, the limits help the out-of-control spouse begin to experience the necessary pain that can motivate him or her to take more responsibility in the marriage. Many marriages are strengthened after boundaries are set because the spouse begins to miss the relationship.

Will some people abandon or attack us for having boundaries? Yes. But, it’s better to learn about their character and take steps to fix the problem than never to know in the first place.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Don’t Marry Your Future Ex-Husband

by Harriet Lerner PhD

Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make, so chose wisely.

First, consider the top five reasons that wise women sometimes make foolish choices.

1. Timing.  We’re most prone to fall mindlessly in love at difficult emotional junctures—on the heels of a breakup, divorce, or death of a family member, for example.

2. Steamy starts. The rush of romance and sexual attraction can act like a drug, and blur our capacity for clear thinking.  When we get obsessed with a guy we confuse intensity with intimacy.  In fact, intensity blocks us from taking an objective look at our partner, ourselves, and the relationship.

3. Idealization. We’re convinced he’s so brilliant and special, that we put him above us.  Perhaps he has a gift we don’t possess, for example he can fix your computer,  has a photographic memory, and can conjugate Latin verbs.  Discerning his strengths and weaknesses is part of knowing him better, but an idealized view leads us to undervalue our own worth and ignore his shortcomings. We’ll make excuses for negative traits, qualities and behaviors because he’s “so brilliant.”

4.  Desperation and fear. Your two best friends just got married, you’re about to turn forty, and someone reminds you that your biological clock is ticking.Your anxious brainwakes you at 3:00 in the morning with scary pictures of your future without a mate. Fear has never helped anybody make good choices. It leads to clinging when we should be walking.

5.  Lack of Self-Focus:  You’re looking for someone to fill up your empty bucket, give you some kind of direction, or provide meaning in your life.  Poor choices happen when we’re not putting our primary energy into having our own life plan and figuring out how to live our own life (not someone else’s) as well as possible.

Here are six tips to give you the best chance of making wise choices.

*Slow things down and get to know him as well as possible.   

*Don’t insulate your relationship with him from other important relationships, even if he says he wants to spend time only with you.  You won’t really know him if you don’t make sure to observe him among both your friends and family and his.

*Keep your primary focus on your own goals and life plan, which will put you on firmest footing whatever happens with a particular guy.

*Don’t silence your voice or avoid conflict in order to preserve relationship harmony. Get out sooner rather than later if there is a big red flag waving in your face. 

*Don’t count on the quality of your love or nagging to create things in the future that aren’t there to begin with.

 *Never forget that there are many possibilities for intimacy and connection other than pairing up.

find original article here.

Reblog: Control Your Sexuality

By Tim Challies

This whole series titled “Run to Win“ had its genesis in a number of real-world conversations. In one, a woman told of her struggles with her husband. She considered herself a caring and attentive wife who over many years had done her best to respond to her husband’s frequent requests for sex. Yet even when she responded positively, she found his desire was rarely quenched, and within hours he would be after her again, grumbling and dissatisfied if she declined. Another young wife learned that her husband was regularly masturbating when she wasn’t around. Do all men do this? Still another found a trail of pornography on her husband‘s laptop. Is this normal? If so, why does it feel so wrong?

It feels so wrong because it is so wrong. It isn’t normal, and it isn’t okay. This series began with men who have a problem with sexual self-control. As I pondered these situations, I asked, What do these men really need? Surely their inability and unwillingness to control their sexuality reveals a much deeper spiritual problem. I pondered and plotted, and soon a series was born, a series meant to examine a powerful biblical metaphor for our lives: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Today I want to challenge you in this way: If you are going to run to win, you need to control your sexuality.

An Age of Incontinence

I suppose we all know what it is to be incontinent. I was once in an airplane with a passenger who struggled in this way, and in a sealed aluminum tube soaring at 30,000 feet, her problem quickly became our problem. When we speak of continence we are usually referring to bodily functions, especially the ability or inability to control urinary and fecal functions. But the word has a wider meaning than that. As you read older Christian authors, you will often encounter the notion of continence applied to sexuality. A man who exercises sexual self-control is a continent man. Conversely, a man who lacks sexual self-control is an incontinent man, no better than the one who cannot or will not control his bowels.

Sexual incontinence dominates the world today. Sexual expression and carnal pleasure are regarded as unassailable rights. Children not even old enough to understand their bodies are encouraged to explore, for masturbation is said to be physically pleasurable and morally commendable. From a young age, children are taught that anything consensual must be ethical and that repressing sexual desire is far more harmful than expressing it. Teens are told that abstinence is old-fashioned and that any sexual expression is fair game as long as they use protection. Sex: Our bodies long for it, society celebrates it, pop culture promotes it, pornography trains us in it.

Sadly, sexual incontinence pervades the church as well. Even many men who profess faith in Jesus Christ are out of control in their sexuality. Perhaps they developed bad habits when they were young and have simply never replaced those habits with better ones. Perhaps they’ve let themselves slip and over time have allowed healthy patterns to be displaced by unhealthy ones. Perhaps they are simply apathetic about the whole thing. Either way, we see the brutal fallout in churches ruined, ministries undermined, families wrecked. Many men have been willing to risk it all for the sake of fleeting sexual pleasure.

No wonder, then, that the Bible calls Christian men to self-control in all of life in general, and in this area in particular. To men struggling with sexual self-control, God’s Word offers stern rebukes and sweet promises of forgiveness and reformed behavior. The very gospel that saves your soul is the gospel that grants the virtue of self-control.

A Man of Self-Control

Self-control is a virtue of uncommon beauty, the promised result of a relationship with God, for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Yet it is a rare virtue because so few Christians diligently seek it. In the morass of a sinful mind, self-control can feel like captivity, the denial of what is good and satisfying. In reality, though, self-control is the key to what is good and satisfying, for it steers you away from counterfeits and directs you toward the greatest sources of the highest pleasures.

God is the creator of the gift of sexuality and, as its creator, the one who has defined its purpose and determined its boundaries. The greatest enjoyment of the gift is found within God’s boundaries, not outside of them. Paul speaks to you when he appeals to the Christians in Rome “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Their presentation of their bodies was their surrender of their very selves. You, too, must voluntarily surrender everything to God, including your sexuality. You must determine to seek his purposes for it and use it only in ways he permits.

God says that sex is given to a husband and wife for pleasure and procreation, a gift through which they enjoy unique intimacy and create new people formed in God’s image. With this in mind, God gives you sexual desires so that you will pursue a wife first, and then so that you will pursue your wife within marriage. And, as you already know, God tends to give men a greater measure of sexual desire, perhaps to encourage the man to take the lead in the loving pursuit of his bride. We are, after all, prone to laziness and shirking our responsibilities. Perhaps God has given us this increased sexual desire to motivate us to do what we would otherwise avoid or procrastinate.

According to the Designer, sex is a good gift that is inextricably tied to the marriage covenant. It is only within marriage that you are called to voluntarily give the rights over your body to your spouse. Paul explains it in this way: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Any and all sexual activity is to be enjoyed consensually between a husband and wife. You have no right to pursue sexual activity on your own. Your sexuality belongs to your wife, and only she can determine when and how it is expressed. This means you have no right to ogle other women, to concoct inappropriate fantasies, to stare at pornographic images, or to sneak off and masturbate. In all ways and at all times you are to show self-control, to withhold sexual expression for any purpose other than making love to your wife.

It is possible that your wife will not desire sex as often as you do. It is probable that there will be extended periods when, for various reasons, she will not able to participate at all or as freely as the two of you might like. In these times you will have the choice to sin or show self-control. Too many men choose sin! Too many sin by badgering their wives, by wallowing in self-pity, or by engaging in secret sexual sin. Some go so far as to force themselves on their wives, to make a horrific mockery of God’s gift by brutally seizing what is meant to be gently won and lovingly received. The antidote to it all is self-control, that precious virtue that keeps the good gift within its proper boundaries.

My friend, if God has granted you a wife, he has also granted you the joy of pursuing her, of enjoying her, and of finding pleasure in her. This is the only context in which he endorses sexual activity of any kind. If God has not granted you a wife, he has called you to refrain from all sexual activity. As a single man, you may not yet experience the pleasure of sex, but you can experience the pleasure of obedience. Even Jesus, the one who shows the way to be most fully human, lived and died a virgin. There is pleasure in sex, but much greater pleasure in obedience.

Do It Now!

All of this calls for action. Here are a few places to begin.

Stop masturbating. Is that too blunt? I don’t think it is. I think men need to hear it. Whether you’re single or married, just stop. Masturbation is self-love. It runs entirely counter to the heart of our Savior, who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). It is counterfeit and fraudulent sexuality. Because it involves no woman, it is more properly a form of homosexuality than heterosexuality. It’s immature, it’s a misuse of God’s gift, it’s just plain dumb. You ought to be ashamed and embarrassed by it. So cut it out already and show some self-control.

Bounce your heart, not just your eyes. I am sure you are well familiar with the temptation to allow your eyes to linger on the female form. I am equally sure you have been given the common advice to “bounce your eyes.” It is well and good to stop looking at what is not yours to have, but do better than that—bounce your heart. The Bible assures us that evil does not begin with our eyes but with our hearts. The heart, after all, is the seat of our deepest desires and affections. As you address the behavior of your eyes, do not neglect to reform the desires of your heart.

Get accountability. As men we tend to harbor our thoughts, to bury our questions, concerns, and secrets. Yet there is joy and freedom in unburdening ourselves, to externalizing what we prefer to internalize. Find a good friend, perhaps one who is older and wiser than you, and speak openly and freely about your sexual sin and victories. Ask that friend to hold you accountable and to help train you in godliness. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

Give it all. Make the commitment to surrender 100% of your sexuality to God and to direct 100% of your sexual energy to your wife. Pursue her with gentleness and love. When she refuses you, respond with grace. When she accepts you, respond with joy. Enjoy her. Enjoy all of her for as long as you both shall live.

Seek and receive forgiveness. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he recounted some of the sexual sin they had once participated in, but reminded them that they had since been recreated: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). If you are in Christ, this is true of you. Your sexual past—whether decades ago or hours ago—has been forgiven by Jesus Christ. Seek his forgiveness, receive it, then live as one from whom the power of sin has been broken. You can be free.

Run to Win

The Bible commands and commends sexual self-control. Yet there is one way in which it promotes and celebrates indulgence. Writing to young men, Solomon warns of the danger of illicit sexuality and wanton women, then says this: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:19). Go ahead and get intoxicated, he says, but get drunk in the love and passionate pursuit of your wife. What wine does to your body, let your wife do to your affections and desires. Let her captivate you. Let her fascinate you. Let her have that kind of power over you. Be addicted to her. When you are with her, when you are in her arms, let yourself go and enjoy God’s good gift of sexual pleasure. As you run to win, enjoy the wife God gives you, and control your sexuality.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: What’s My Attachment Style and Why Does It Matter?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

If you’re in an unhappy relationship, feel stuck in a pattern of failed relationships, or can’t seem to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right, your attachment style may be the reason.

We all learn about human relationships from our first relationships – those with our parents or primary caregivers. Understanding your attachment style can help you get to the root of your relationship troubles.

Ideally, parents provide security and safety and children learn to trust that their parents will meet their needs. Parents provide comfort and help calm their children when they’re upset or afraid. As a result, children form a bond with their parents that builds a secure emotional foundation. Children can then confidently explore the world knowing their parents will keep them safe.

We know that humans are meant to connect to and depend on each other. Our survival hinges on it! Depending on others is healthy even in adult relationships. We are more successful and happy when we can form healthy, trusting attachments to other humans.

“We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.” – Brene Brown

There are three primary attachment styles: secure, avoidant, and anxious. I have described each attachment style below.

Secure Attachment

  • You had your needs met as a child. Your caregivers were attentive and responsive to your needs helping you to feel safe and cared for.
  • You feel comfortable being close and emotionally intimate.
  • You seek and maintain close, stable relationships.
  • You feel comfortable expressing your feelings and needs.

Avoidant Attachment

  • Your caregivers were probably distant, cold, or unresponsive. As a result, you became more independent and self-reliant, not wanting to depend on inconsistent people.
  • Close relationships tend to feel smothering and like they’re impeding your independence.
  • You pull away from intimacy when it feels too intense.
  • You need a lot of time to yourself.
  • You may resist commitment.

Anxious Attachment

  • Your caregivers were inconsistent in attending to your needs. As a result, you hold on tight in order to try to get your needs met.
  • You crave intimacy and can never get enough closeness.
  • You question whether you’re partner really loves you or whether you’re lovable and seek frequent reassurance.
  • An anxious attachment can be described as “needy” or “clingy.”
  • You desperately seek security and attention from your partner, but this can push him/her away.

Why does my attachment style matter?

Attachment theory originated with work of John Bowlby, who studied mothers and infants, but we now recognize that our attachment style is still at play in our adult romantic relationships. The parent-child attachment sets the stage for our ability to trust that our adult partners will meet our emotional needs.

Our attachment style becomes a blueprint for the rest of our intimate relationships. Our attachment style impacts our choice of romantic partners and how we relate to them. We replay these attachment patterns over and over with new people as a way to find evidence for our beliefs about ourselves. This is why people often feel stuck in the same kinds of relationship patterns. For example, many anxiously attached people date or marry avoidants who can never seem to give them enough closeness and reassurance. This confirms the anxiously attached person’s fears of abandonment and belief that s/he is flawed or unlovable.

Understanding your attachment style is useful not only because it gives you insights into your relationship with your parents and how you felt as a child, but it can also help you understand difficulties you have in your adult relationships. Ultimately, understanding your attachment style can help you figure out how you can change in order to have more fulfilling relationships. In other words, having a healthy relationship is about choosing the “right” partner and about developing a healthy, secure attachment.

How can I become more securely attached?

Although attachment patterns are well established, you can shift toward a more secure attachment style by learning new skills and practicing a lot.

A few ways to start changing your attachment style are:

  • Notice your relationship patterns. Becoming more aware of your anxious or avoidant behaviors is the first step in change.
  • Pay attention to what you need and how you feel.
  • Share your feelings with your partner.
  • Recognize cognitive distortions and challenge them.
  • Communicate your relationship needs and expectations clearly to your partner.
  • Take good care of yourself.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself; acknowledge your strengths and successes.
  • Work with a therapist (shifting your attachment style is hard work).
  • Spend time with people who model healthy relationships.

I hope this post has shed a bit of light on understanding your attachment style and how it influences your adult relationships. For additional information, I recommend the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. As always, be patient and gentle with yourself as you challenge yourself to change.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Dr. Laura: 9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Too Far Into a Relationship

  1. How well do I know them? Meeting the parents seems to be the last thing people do when dating. However, it should be one of the first. Observing someone in their “natural habitat” gives you a big impression of how your future with them might look. What is their family like? What kind of upbringing did they have?

  2. Can I trust them? If they share your private conversations with anybody, walk away. Don’t have an argument about it or give them a second chance. If they aren’t going to protect your innermost thoughts, drop them.

  3. Do I see how they are changing me? No matter who you’re dating, you’re going to be influenced by that person to some degree. Are they trying to get you to start or stop doing something?

  4. How do we communicate? Do you feel intimidated to talk or be open? Do you give them all the power because it’s easier than arguing?

  5. Am I attracted to their character or just their body? It’s easy to be attracted to someone who is a babe, but are you attracted to their heart, values, beliefs, and worldview? When you add up all the time you spend in a relationship, sex is only a tiny percentage. You have to be able to connect in other ways.

  6. Are they accepting of who I am? The most mature and loving people love you for who you are. If, while dating, they are already trying to change how you dress, talk, or eat, they are not ready for a relationship. And if you go along with it, you aren’t ready for a relationship either.

  7. How do they treat other people? Pay particular attention to how they treat people they say they care about.

  8. Do they make an effort to put my needs first? Relationships are give and take. If someone never gives, throws temper tantrums, displays outbursts of rage, or tries to control you, you need to watch out.

  9. Are their hopes and dreams for the future compatible with mine? This one is self-explanatory.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 7 Signs of a Doomed Relationship

by Henry Cloud

If you have read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Never Go Back, I will assume that you started with the first chapter. That chapter may or may not have been loosely based on an amalgamation of my failed relationships. I would see the 7 signs of a doomed relationship, sometimes more than 7, and instead of running away, I would run full speed into their closed arms.

Through all of my doomed relationships, I slowly started to figure out some of the signs that let me know that this was not my person. These signs are listed below in no particular order.

1. First and foremost, more than anything…you should feel safe. Safe expressing who you truly are, your mistakes and your triumphs. Every little thing that you have experienced has made you the person you are today and while some of this may not always be pretty to discuss, it made you, and the person you’re with will embrace your ups and not shame you for your downs.

2. It should never feel like a game. When someone is truly into you, and wants to pursue you and make you a part of their life….they don’t play games. They greet you with intention. They truly won’t wait an entire day/days to return a text message. When people are serious about you, you will feel like a priority. Whether you have been dating 7 days, 7 months or 7 years… relationships take effort and work, and when someone is genuinely interested in you, they will make it a point to make sure you know.

3. This ties into feeling safe, but the person you are with should not try and change you. I truly feel that you should feel accepted for who you are…but the caveat here, is that the person you’re with should help you grow. We all have areas that we can improve upon in life and relationship and I think there is a difference between changing for someone and growing with someone, I think it’s important to be aware of which one is happening in your relationship.

4. You try and make up for things that are missing. This was a mistake that I repeatedly made. I dated many people that looked so good on paper, and that I theoretically should like, or tried to like because all my friends and family loved this person. So, you try and convince yourself that it’s right. If something feels like it’s missing in your relationship, that feeling will never dissipate, it will just continue to grow. Don’t ignore it.

5. If you are starting to look outside your relationship to fulfill things that you feel are missing, it’s definitely time to reevaluate.

6. Relationships should progress. They are ever evolving and moving forward. Whether this is meeting friends and family, or planning trips together or future plans together. While relationships are very much about the present and what you are experiencing in the moment, they are also about the kind of future you see together, and not just talking about it but actively working towards something and bringing it to fruition.

7. Last but not least, and probably what I have personally used for a barometer more than anything, does this person make me feel crazy or are they a calming presence. We all have moments where we feel like we are losing our minds. Especially in relationship, because love can make us all crazy. Find someone who quiets your crazy not adds fuel to it.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 12 characteristics of a healthy relationship:

by Sharon Martin LCSW

  1. Nurturing and loving. The most basic characteristic of a good relationship is that it’s loving. There is a feeling of being cared for deeply in words and actions. Your partner says kind things. S/he intentionally does things to comfort you, show appreciation and affection.
  2. Honest. In healthy relationships people tell the truth. They don’t keep secrets or lie by omission. The goal is transparency, rather than deception.
  3. Accepts you as you are. I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s a bad idea to get into a relationship with the expectation that you will change someone. Whether it’s a big issue like drug use or a small issue like dirty dishes in the sink, you will be frustrated (or worse) if you’re expecting your partner to change his/her ways. Yes, people can and do change. But they have to want to change. You can’t make your partner change no matter how much you love him/her.
  4. Respectful. Mutual respect means you consider someone else’s feelings and treat them as they want to be treated. When there is respect, you don’t feel pressured or manipulated. You are accepted and treated with kindness. Your partner listens and values your point of view.
  5. A team effort. You should feel like you and your partner are working together. You have shared goals. You don’t undermine, compete or try to “win”. You support each other as a unit and as individuals.
  6. Safe physically and emotionally. You can relax around your partner. You know s/he’s “got your back”. You aren’t afraid of being hit, forced to do something you don’t want to do, manipulated, yelled at, belittled or shamed.
  7. Vulnerable. Safety allows vulnerability and vulnerability allows deep connection. You feel safe to share your dreams and confessions without fear of judgment.
  8. Supportive of your individuality. Healthy attachment allows partners to go safely and confidently into the world to set and achieve individual goals. You can have time to yourself. Your partner will encourage you, be proud of you and show interest in your personal goals and hobbies.
  9. Shared expectations. Time and again I find that differing expectations end up with one person being disappointed. I’m a big believer in having realistic expectations and for couples to have similar expectations. Expectations can include everything from how often you have sex, how you celebrate holidays, how much time you spend together, or how household chores are divided. If you’re on different pages, you need to negotiate and compromise until you reached shared expectations.
  10. Forgiving. Hurt and misunderstanding are also a part of being in relationship with someone. You should be able to forgive (not forget) when there is genuine remorse and behavior change. Without forgiveness, toxic resentment and pain will grow and eventually suffocate a relationship.
  11. Addresses conflict and hurt. Communication is really important. Talking is easy when things are good, but it’s even more important to be able to address conflicts and hurts. In a healthy relationship there is a mechanism to air grievances, talk about hurt, and disagree in a respectful way. Conflicts are resolved not simply avoided.
  12. Fun and playful. Yes, relationships take work, but they should also be fun. Why be in a relationship if you don’t enjoy each other’s company, laugh together, and have a good time?

Find the original post here.

Reblog:Homophobia Has No Place in the Church

Article by Nick Roen

“Young man, I appreciate your message, but you need to realize that most gay people are dangerous predators.”

I had just finished sharing about my experience with same-sex attraction (SSA) at a church in the heart of Wisconsin, and an elderly man tracked me down after the service. These were the first words out of his mouth.

I was taken aback and asked him to clarify. It turns out that a gay man made a pass at him many years ago when he was in the military — and it had caused him to view all gay people as sexually aggressive and dangerous. His view of the homosexual community was defined almost exclusively by a single experience — and fear.

I have a fear as well, but my fear is that homophobia is all too common, not just in society, but even within the church. Some may object to my use of the word homophobia. It can sometimes be used as a politically loaded term wielded to silence any and all opposition to same-sex sexual activity. However, this is not the root definition of the term.

Simply put, homophobia means a fear of homosexuality and, more specifically, homosexual people. And while it is not the same as loving, biblical opposition to certain behaviors or beliefs, this fear-based attitude often leads to unhelpful stereotypes, prejudice, and even cruel mistreatment.

So, let’s call a spade a spade. Homophobia exists, and it has no place in the church.

Search Your Heart

No doubt some who feel convicted will push back. “Well, I don’t think that all gay people are dangerous predators, so I’m not homophobic.” However, homophobia can often take subtler, equally sinister forms. For example, homophobia can subtly infiltrate not only our beliefs, but also our reasons for these beliefs. These principles themselves might be correct and godly, but they can be believed for all the wrong reasons.

Honestly consider your own heart in the following examples:

  • Is your belief that same-sex sexual activity is sin based finally on solid biblical exegesis? Or is it really based on the fact that you don’t understand how someone could be attracted to the same sex, and this unknown seems to you just plain creepy?
  • Is your opposition to so-called same-sex marriage based on a principled biblical definition of marriage? Or is it more influenced by a fear that same-sex couples might signal the unraveling of comfortable cultural norms and usher in the end of a once-pristine “Judeo-Christian society”? Or maybe your fear is more that one such couple might move in next door, and you might actually be pressured to befriend them?
  • Does your opposition to homosexual practice include the ability to lovingly welcome LGBT people into a Sunday service or other gathering with other Christians? Or does opposition for you mean that you wish they would just stay away so you aren’t made uncomfortable by their very presence?
  • In standing for Christian sexual ethics, do you encourage and support those SSA believers within the church who are striving to remain faithful to biblical teaching by welcoming them into full participation in church life? Or does standing for biblical sexuality mean that they can come to church, but they can’t grow in influence or serve the body through teaching, and they should probably stay away from the youth group?

Biblical exegesis is a wonderful underpinning for belief, and love is a worthy motive for action. Fear is a horrible reason for both.

It would do us well to humbly examine our hearts to reveal the motives and fears behind our attitudes toward people who identify as “gay.” Happily upholding Christian sexual ethics is not the same as harboring animosity toward an entire group of people simply because you find them yucky.

Love, Not Fear

Instead, Christians — of all people on the planet — must operate not out of fear, but love. We recognize that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and are therefore sacred and worthy of love.

Furthermore, we are called to love with the very love of our Father (Matthew 5:45), which calls us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44–48). Such love casts out fear because it no longer fears God’s judgment and therefore is freed to love with lavishness (1 John 4:18).

Therefore, our comfort, our convenience, our safety, or our perception of our country’s values are no longer valid reasons to operate in any way that is opposed to genuine biblical love. And we love this way because this is exactly how Jesus first loved us (1 John 4:19). He wasn’t threatened or repelled by us; he wasn’t afraid to enter a relationship with us, sinners that we were (and still are), and to even graciously speak the truth about our sin. Instead, he loved us so lavishly that he died for us to present us clean and whole before his Father (Romans 5:6–8).

When we love in this manner, we expose homophobia for what it really is: pride. It is an attitude that puts beneath us others whose sins and temptations we deem “more depraved” than our own, as we wickedly proclaim with the Pharisee, “Well, at least I don’t struggle with that” (Luke 18:11).

The truth is that sin is sin, temptation is temptation, and “men who have sex with men” is listed right alongside greed, drunkenness, deception, and slander as worthy of exclusion from the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). All equally damnable. Who among us is innocent?

So, let us examine our hearts, identify attitudes of fear and the roots of pride, wherever they exist, and put to death ungodly prejudices that ultimately hinder the truth. In our quest for biblical fidelity, we must not only uphold the truth, but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Biblical love requires that we speak the truth. And when we speak out of homophobia, rather than in love, it is we who are in the wrong.

Read the original article here.

Reblog: How to Overcome Feeling Insecure and Needy in Your Relationships

by Sharon Martin

Many people feel insecure at least some of the time. Some people feel insecure most of the time about most things. Other people may occasionally feel insecure or only in certain situations or with certain people.

Explore why you’re feeling insecure

Sometimes insecurity is the result of trauma. If you’ve experienced a betrayal or hurt, such as cheating or lying or abuse in your current or past relationship, it’s normal to want to protect yourself from further hurt. You put up your guard and feel anxious, on edge, or worried. Your nervous system goes into overdrive searching for evidence of danger. You might also notice that these feelings of insecurity remind you of childhood wounds. Children tend to internalize harm caused by others and believe it’s their fault – because they’re bad, flawed, unworthy, unlovable. This sets the stage for feeling insecure in adult relationships.

Other times it’s not so easy to spot where insecurity began. You may have a pervasive feeling that you’re not “good enough.” You worry about what people think. You don’t want to disappoint or displease others. You try to live up to someone else’s expectations or standards. Comparison leads to insecurity. It makes you feel “less than” compared to others that seem prettier, thinner, smarter, stronger, or funnier.

Love and acceptance from others does not solve insecurity

Most people think the solution to insecurity is having others love and accept them. It isn’t. I remember a painful experience I had in middle school. I had a great group of friends, felt accepted, cared for and wanted…until they rejected me. Friends and lovers will come and go. Sometimes they drift away. Sometimes they storm off after an intense fight. Sometimes they die. If you’re counting on others to make you feel secure, you will eventually be disappointed.

When people feel insecure in a relationship, they often turn to their partners seeking reassurance and validation. A partner can never provide the sense of security you’re seeking. Relationships are always uncertain. There are no guarantees that your partner will be dependable or faithful or with you for the rest of your life. The only way to feel secure in your relationship is to seek security and confidence within yourself.

Security comes from loving yourself and knowing you’re resilient

Feeling safe and secure means that you know you can cope with whatever life throws your way. You can’t control what your partner does or if this relationship ends, but you can control your response and your feelings. It’s empowering to know that you can cope with the unexpected and messy parts of life. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be hurt or angry or heart broken. It just means that you have confidence in your ability to get through really tough situations and feelings.

Chances are you’ve already gotten through some pretty challenging things in your life. When I reflect on my experiences, I’m in awe of some of the things I’ve overcome. I didn’t always do it with grace, but I did get through more pain than I imagined I could. I suspect the same is true for you.

Life experience shows us that we can endure a lot of adversity and uncertainty. You can not only survive, but thrive when you choose not to let life’s curve balls keep you down or feeling like a victim. This is where confidence comes from. It doesn’t come from reassuring words or promises from your partner or anyone else.

Instead of seeking validation from others, reassure yourself

Look inside yourself for the validation you’re seeking. Honestly, no one can give you want you can’t give to yourself. Your partner might say the words you crave: “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine my life without you.” The problem is, if you don’t believe this to be true deep in your soul, you’re not going to believe it when anyone else says it to you.  If you want others to make you feel worthy, you’ll always be chasing this approval. Instead:

  • Tune into your own feelings. Spend some quality time with yourself.
  • Identify your feelings. A list of feeling words can be helpful (try this one).
  • Validate your feelings. “It’s normal to feel angry when my roommate drinks all the coffee and doesn’t buy any to replace it.” Or, “I understand why I feel anxious when Mary comes home from work late.”
  • Identify your strengths. Everyone has good qualities. Remind yourself every single day of your positive traits and skills. I promise you won’t become conceited.
  • When you catch yourself worrying about what might happen, gently bring yourself back to the present. You can ask yourself: How likely is this to happen? Is there anything I can do about it?
  • Remind yourself that you can cope with whatever happens.
  • Soothe yourself. Recognize when you need comfort and give it to yourself. You can calm yourself by listening to music, taking a hot bath, engaging in repetitive motion such as walking, massaging your temples, sipping a cup of herbal tea, or using essential oils.

Read the original post here.

Reblog: Relationship Expectations Everyone Should Have

by Dr. Laura

In every relationship, there are basic needs and expectations that everyone has a right to expect. If you’re not getting them, then the relationship is not a match. Here are eight relationship expectations every person should have:

  1. Affection. You hold hands, kiss, hug, and give each other back or foot rubs. Physical affection is very important.

  2. Compassion. Whether you have a stomach ache or a heartache, it needs to matter to the other person when you’re not feeling OK.

  3. Respect. You can disagree with each other, but there shouldn’t be any name-calling or ridiculing. If somebody is constantly ridiculing you and then following it up with, “I’m only kidding,” they’re a jerk – get rid of them.

  4. Consideration. A considerate person thinks about how they impact you. They don’t have to give you everything you ask for or do everything you want, but they have to consider what you need, what you’d like, and what you have to say.

  5. Time. Some people like a lot of time, a medium amount of time, and no time. A “no time” person is not going to get along with a “medium time” or “a lot of time” person. You have to be more matched in how much time you’re willing and able to give each other. For example, I always wanted dinner at 6.  That’s an important time for me because it’s the end of the day when you’re breaking bread and talking about everything. That’s the life I knew I wanted, and I wasn’t going to be with anybody for whom dinner at 6 was not a desire.

  6. Interests. It’s reasonable to expect that your partner not only show interest in you but also the things you’re interested in, even if they may not be interested in those things themselves.

  7. Intimacy. Intimacy isn’t sex – it’s being known. Over the weekend, I asked a couple who has been married a long time what makes them glad they’re married to each other. The woman said, “He lets me be me. Nobody else let me be me or accepted me for who I am.” I then asked the guy, who said, “She is sweet to me.” That is probably the number one thing married men want from their wives. Many women think it’s sex, however, what men really want is a woman who is nice to them. Men are very uncomplicated.

  8. Generosity. Gifts are nice, but generosity really means that your partner is generous of themselves and their time. He or she goes out of their way to help, soothe, and take care of you.

If you are not having these basic needs met in your relationship, you need to sit down and talk about what expectations you each have, and discuss those expectations without fighting. Just simply say, “This is what I need.”

Find Dr. Laura’s blog post here.