READ THIS BLOG POST!!!!!

Ok.  How did the title of this post affect you?  For most people who are tech savvy, they heard me screaming at them.  Isn’t it amazing that we have developed such intricate interpreting skills when it comes to the written word?  Most people think that they are quite competent when it comes to understanding the true meaning behind every text, email, or other form of digital media communication that we read.  However, it seems like a month doesn’t go by where I don’t have a client in my office who is there in large part due to a misunderstanding in the written form.  For example, an email sent to a co-worker or boss that wasn’t proof read before being sent, a Facebook post that was a momentary vent about a spouse became a world wide declaration of their incompetence, a comment that was supposed to be sarcastic was texted to a friend and it was received as a matter of fact and now they won’t respond, or one of the worst, sending a sensitive or derogatory email to the wrong party (it’s almost impossible to recover from this last one).  Technology is awesome isn’t it?  It can help us in so many ways.  But, it can become a problem when we rely on it in ways it is incapable of or wasn’t designed for.  Expecting it to translate the true meaning and intent behind our communication is impossible.     Expecting others to be able to understand what we “meant to say” rather than what we actually said can also be a problem.  I tell people constantly, “digital writing is for information transfer only.”  Things like, “what times does the movie start?”or “where are we meeting?” are perfect for written communication.  On the other hand, attempting to clearly communicate in writing to a guy friend how you feel about his friendship (when that is all you want from him) when he clearly wants more from the relationship than just being friends gets complicated very quickly.  In marriage, even when you have been together for years, this can be a common source of problems.  Don’t assume that your spouse will be able to interpret your written words exactly the way you meant them.  If you have any doubt about whether a topic might be interpreted wrong, pick up the phone or wait until you see them in person.  The few extra moments it takes to do that can save you lots of heart ache, may improve your relationship, and maybe even save you some expensive therapy billsJ.

Challenge:  Every time you send something digitally this week, ask yourself if it is simply information transfer or if it contains something that could be misinterpreted or could cause problems if the wrong person read it.  If it is the later, communicate in a more traditional manner, face to face or by phone.

Study Your Spouse To Improve Communication

How do you communicate love to your spouse?  Not do you love them or do you tell them that you love them, but how do you communicate love to them.  This requires work.  Anyone can say the words, “I love you.”  But not everyone studies their spouse and understands what makes them tick.  Knowing how they respond to different forms of affection can help you demonstrate that you truly care about them.  Again, anyone can say the universal words, “I love you” but not everyone understands what your husband or wife really needs and enjoys.  If you spend your life getting to know your spouse and attempting to meet their needs how they want them met, the likelihood that someone else may come along and sweep them off their feet is minimal.  However, if you don’t spend your life doing this and simply expect that your spouse is content with what you offer them, another may come along who invests a little time getting to know them and understanding what they appreciate.  Before you know it, your spouse may feel conflicted and their heart may become confused about who they actually love.  While they have a long history with you, this new person is making them feel alive and passionate.  Something they haven’t felt in a long time.  In this instance, you may or may not have a chance of saving your marriage.  Please don’t wait until you find yourself in this situation, start now to study your spouse and discover what makes them feel loved.  Then begin to show them on a regular basis how you feel about them.  If you find yourself in the midst of a relationship that is falling apart, don’t give up.  Begin to fight for the marriage.  Show your spouse that you have not given up and that you are willing to learn and change to save what you have built together.  Remember that if they are feeling attracted to another, you may bear some of the responsibility for their wayward heart if you have not done your part to love them.  This is not an excuse for their behavior but an acknowledgment of the fact that you may need to take responsibility for what you have done or not done.  Don’t give up, remember that God doesn’t give up on us.  Christ continues to pursue His bride even when she is wayward and chasing another.

Challenge:  Make an effort this month to study your spouse and make a list of what makes them feel loved.  Then begin to do these acts of affection on a regular basis.  Continue to add to this list and don’t ever stop.  Love is a verb.  Just do it.

Focus in Conflict

How often do you get into fights or arguments with your spouse?  Many times these disagreements are based upon a very short list of things that married couples fight about.  Typically they include money, sex, kids, and in-laws.  While people may hold very strong opposite beliefs about some of these topics, the way you communicate about them is at least, if not more important.  For example, if you and your spouse disagree about how to spend the money you have it can cause major strife.  However, if you are able to genuinely listen to each other, set aside judgment, and control your emotional responses they you can discuss your opposing beliefs and come to a rational compromise.  If you can’t do this, then you will probably continue to fight about the issue every time it comes up (which is likely to be often).  So, how do you go about resolving your communication difficulties?  The first step is to listen to your spouse while they are talking.  Most people think that they do this very well but that their spouse doesn’t have a clue how to do it.  As you can imagine, if both partners hold this belief, someone has to be wrong.  The reality is that both people usually have a problem in this area.  Ask yourself a couple of questions and after answering them, pay attention to how you do these things the next time you have a conflict with your spouse.  First, when talking/arguing with your spouse are you truly listening to what they say or are you trying to formulate in your mind what you are going to say next?  In this case, multi-tasking is impossible.  You cannot be 100% paying attention to what your spouse is saying and think about your response at the same time.  You might be about to give 50% to each endeavor but it will come across to your spouse and they will become frustrated and probably say something like, “you aren’t listen to me.”  Which is 50% true in the moment.  That is when the argument tends to disintegrate and head into a different direction.  Because you respond with, “yes I am listening.”  In saying that, the direction of the disagreement becomes the dysfunction in your communication style/practice rather than the finances. In that moment, you fail to hear what they are really saying, “I want 100% of your attention to hear me.”  Attempting to communicate this way will almost always lead to frustration and increased tension because you drifted away from the initial problem and are now focusing on a different topic.  While focusing on your difficulties associated with the topic of communication is important, it was not the original intention of the interaction.  So, stay on topic until it is resolved.

 

Challenge:  Every time you interact with your spouse, begin developing the habit of giving them 100% of your focus.  Practicing this in times of peace will make it easier to do in the midst of a disagreement.

Marital Communication

One of the basics for having a great marriage is developing healthy communication.  Anyone who has been married for more than a few days will tell you how important healthy communication is.  Everything from the way you look at your spouse, your tone of voice, how or what you text or email, and finally the specific words that you choose to use when talking with each other are all essential for getting your point across to your spouse.  But you also have to take into account what perspective your spouse will have when receiving your message.  Are they in a good mood, are they guarded emotionally, do they have baggage that will jade the message you are trying to communicate?  Knowing your spouse and attempting to communicate in a way that they will receive accurately is just as important as how and what you say.  The problem with developing healthy communication is that there are so many ways for it to derail and go wrong.  For example, you may have the best intentions and be trying to compliment your wife and she misunderstands what you are attempting to communicate and gets frustrated with you.  It might be easy at that point to shut down or get defensive but the better response would be to delay your emotional response and clarify what message she received and why she responded the way she did.  This takes work and self sacrifice but in the long run it may save you from a lot of conflict and actually strengthen your marriage.  In the coming weeks I am going to share some insights I have on how to improve your marital communication.

 

Challenge:  Most of us communicate on automatic pilot, especially with our spouses.  Make an effort to think about what you are communicating with your spouse each time to talk to them.

Equally Yolked in Marriage

Having some common moral ground to stand on helps to give a solid foundation for a relationship to be built on and to endure through difficult times.  The Bible says that believers in Christ should not be yolked together with unbelievers in partnerships because we don’t have the same values (2 Cor. 6.14-16).  It doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends with, associate with, or spend time with people who are unbelievers but it does mean that if we enter into a business partnership or marriage we may be guided by very different principles and values than they are.  At some point in those relationships we will likely  face some very difficult times because while we may be guided by different moral codes, we are committed to the partnership or marriage.  It is hard enough to make a marriage work with all the problems and struggles of life without trying to do it with a spouse who may make decisions based on a different set of values than you have.  Some basic issues that may become problematic in a relationship like this are:

Financial stewardship – What do we spend money on?  Do we give to charities or church?  What do we base financial decisions on?

Parenting – What guidelines do we use for deciding how to raise our kids?  Do we teach them anything about God and if so, what?  Do we take them to church or not, if so, who decides which one and how often?

Conflict –  How do we resolve conflict in our relationship?  What guidelines do we use to decide who gets their way in situations?  If I act in humility and apologize will it be reciprocated or seen as weakness and exploited?

As you can see, there are a lot of issues that impact a couple on an ongoing basis that could more easily be resolved if they at least start at the same point morally and Biblically.  While a Christian couple may not always agree on every issue of theology, they should at least have a solid basis on which to work from.

Challenge:  Strive to be on the same page with your spouse both morally and Biblically and if you are thinking about getting married, evaluate where you and your spouse are in regards to your walk with God.  It may hurt to end a relationship before marriage but it can hurt a lot worse in the long run if you try to make it work and later realize that you are unequally yolked.

Sexual Addiction and the Internet

I started counseling in the sexual addiction field around the time the internet really began to take off.  Dial up was slow and the download speeds made video’s unrealistic and high res graphics almost unattainable.  Before that, what we saw in the field of sexual addiction was a predominance of men who for the most part followed a certain path.  Something like this: starting to dabble in using soft core porn, progressing to pornographic magazines (from convenience stores)and possibly going to videos (and trips to the adult book stores).  If it went further it typically developed into phone sex, prostitution, or affairs.  What we have seen with the advent and progression of the internet is an explosion in the field of sexual addiction.  In the old days, if you wanted porn, you had to get in your car and drive to the rougher part of town, go into an adult bookstore, and buy something from another human being.  There were plenty of obstacles to keep mostly honest people from making poor choices.  What we have today is the ability of anyone, even young children, to access the most graphic pornography from the comfort of their living room on the family computer or even their cell phone.  The ease of access and the increase in the graphic nature of what is available is impacting our culture in ways that we can’t even imagine yet.  The numbers of women struggling with porn addiction is sky rocketing and I can’t tell you how many kids (10-14 year olds) that I have seen in my office over the last couple of years whose parents have caught them looking at porn only to realize that they have been doing it for a year or more and have already developed some serious addictive behaviors and thought patterns.  Not only do we have easy access to graphic porn but we also have the ability to view another person in real time, chat with people, find groups of people interested in whatever sexual deviation we might have, and even use this technology to find someone close by to “hook up” with instantly.  It has become way too easy to make bad choices.   I know the internet is amoral.  It doesn’t have morals either positive or negative.  However, in my opinion, the internet is the most destructive tool ever invented by humans.  Proverbs has a lot to say about the destructive nature of sexual sin.  That it will reduce you to nothing, steal your life, and even cost you your life.

Challenge:  Please make sure that when you get online that you use caution and especially if you have kids, make sure you take steps to protect them online.  Again, the internet can be a great tool for good but it can also be a snare that leads to your death (spiritually, relationally, and even physically).

Sexual Addiction or Compulsion

I have worked with men and women struggling with sexual addiction for over two decades.  As I start writing about this issue, I want to clarify a couple of definitions.  For years there have been arguments in the therapeutic recovery field regarding what exactly to call this issue.  The misuse of sex as a coping mechanism and/or attempting to use sex much like a drug to achieve an altered state of reality or  euphoria.  The question is, do we call it “sexual addiction” or “sexual compulsion”?  Many say that a true “addiction” involves ingesting some foreign substance into your body (ie. drug addiction) and that the term “compulsion” is more accurate because it defines a behavior that you can’t seem to stop doing even when you want to.  While I agree fundamentally with this argument, I tend to use the terms interchangeably with my clients and in my writings because to the lay person it seems to be an irrelevant argument.  Whatever you call it, sexual addiction or sexual compulsion, the fact that it is destroying lives and marriages can’t be ignored.  It is a problem plaguing or world that doesn’t seem to show any signs of lessening any time soon.   We have drifted away from following the plans for sex laid out by the Creator of the Universe and have adopted an anything goes mentality and we are reaping the consequences.  We like to think that we can play with sex much like playing with fire and that we won’t get burned.  But the reality is that our actions have consequences and God allows us to endure those with the hope that it will humble us and bring us back to Him.  If you find yourself or your life being affected by sexual addiction (either yours or a loved one’s) don’t lose hope.  Turn to the one who has the answers, Jesus Christ.

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