Specializing in Family Counseling, Men's Issues, & Trauma

How Fear Makes You Selfish

 

Couple Fighting

We live in a day and age where if you have a good reason for what you are doing, especially if it involves your own hurt or fear, it’s okay.  The sensitive thing for others to do is to try to really understand where you are coming from.  If they do, what you have done will make sense and not be harmful.  If they don’t make efforts to “understand” you or don’t agree with your actions, they are judgmental.

In practice, operating this way in relationship is like swinging a sledge hammer at the people around you and then being upset when they complain about you hurting them.  After all, if you weren’t so afraid, you wouldn’t need to swing a hammer at them to begin with.  It’s called lashing out from the victim position, and it’s a prime example of selfishness driven by fear in relationship.  Let’s take a look at an example of a couple dealing with this problem.

Setting: Marital therapy session. Jim and Sarah have come to counseling to sort through a variety of relational issues.  Today, Jim has come in really upset. He doesn’t believe Sarah is making the relationship a priority and it is consuming his thoughts.

Jim:  I am only upset because she is not spending enough time with me and the kids.  I mean, I am her husband, we are supposed to have a relationship!

Therapist: Okay Jim, sounds like you are really bothered by this.  Why don’t you tell me about what happened that got you thinking about this problem.

Jim:  It’s not what happened, it’s what keeps happening!  Sarah does what Sarah wants to do, that’s it!  She doesn’t think of me or our children.  I have sought help from trusted friends and our pastor to see if I am out of line, and they all agree she is hurting the relationship.

Sarah (As Jim talks, she sits quietly, not making eye contact.  She looks sad and like she does not agree, but doesn’t dare challenge him.  After all, last time she took that chance, he made her pay by lecturing her about it for an hour and then not talking to her for the next 3 days.  The kids kept asking her what was wrong with dad.)

Therapist:  Jim, I really want to be able to understand where you are at, but when you speak in generalities it’s hard to do that.  Could you tell me about a specific time recently where this has occurred?

Jim: Sure, that’s easy.  About three months ago, she was talking to some of her girlfriends at church about our marriage.  Sarah calls it getting support, but I call it gossip.  She tells them about problems we are having and makes me look like a bad guy!

Sarah; (speaks up for the first time): I told them we were having issues, not you specifically.  I told them I knew I was a part of what wasn’t working.

Jim: (continues talking as if he has not heard Sarah):  With these women knowing about our stuff, I feel judged all the time.  I told Sarah how badly this hurts me, but she simply doesn’t care!

Therapist: Jim I am curious how you know what your wife is feeling? Can you read her mind?

Jim (annoyed ): It’s obvious.  She isn’t changing.

Therapist: What is it she is supposed to change?

Jim:  I told her I want us to associate with a different group of friends.  We go to a large church and there are a lot of great people to connect with.  It shouldn’t be an issue for her to set some healthy boundaries with those women and move on.  It is time she decided whether her husband is a priority or these friends! (Jim ends his statement triumphantly, sounding like a man who has made a definitive argument, invulnerable to challenge).

Therapist: Jim, I wonder, do you think Sarah feels cared for right now?

Jim: (taken aback by the question): What?

Therapist: Do you think Sarah feels like you care about her right now?

Jim: I love her, she knows that.

Therapist: That wasn’t my question, Jim.  I am not asking you if you love her.  I am asking if you think she feels cared for right now.

Jim: I guess so . . .  I mean I hope so.

Therapist: Sarah, I am curious if, while Jim has been talking, if you have felt cared for?

Sarah: (Tears forming in her eyes): No, no. . .

Therapist: Jim, that sounds like a real problem to me.

Jim: Well, you asked me what is bothering me, and I told you.  I guess I should just keep it to myself.

Therapist: No, Jim, that sounds like a terrible option.  Instead, I think we need to define this problem better.  What are you afraid of in this situation?  What ultimately causes you discomfort?

Jim: Well, two things I guess.  First, I am afraid of what others will think of me.  Those women probably look down on me and I just can’t stand the thought of that.  Second, my wife is choosing her friends over me.

Therapist: I like that you have identified your fear of how others will think of you.  However, that second statement about your wife choosing her friends over you, I am not sure that’s true.  It’s the story you are telling yourself about what is going on.

Jim: Then what am I afraid of?

Therapist: Jim, I don’t want to disrespect you by assuming I can read your mind, so I will just give my best guess.  I think you might be fearful of what others would know about you because you have shame about yourself.  To deal with this, you try and control very carefully what others know about you and Sarah broke the rules.

Jim: What rules?

Therapist: She is not supposed to tell others things you do not want them to know.  Unfortunately, she has and you have to do damage control.  To help you not feel your own fear and discomfort, you want her to distance herself from her friends.  She doesn’t want to do that, so you set it up as a choice between you or them.  It plays into your hand because she can either choose you and leave her friends or be a wife who is not really committed to her marriage and family.

Jim: Wow.  That sounds really bad.

Therapist: Yes.  Does it sound crazy or far fetched?

Jim: (looking a bit sheepish): No, not really.

Therapist: How would you describe what you are doing?

Jim: It’s really manipulative & selfish.

Therapist: Bingo.

Was that painful to read?  Every time I sit with a couple like this, my heart hurts for the “Sarah” in the room.  It’s critical the fear of the partner be exposed, along with his selfish means of dealing with it.  My experience is sinful behavior often has roots in people’s fear. It’s why people feel justified in what they are saying and doing to their spouse. After all, if others understood what they have to deal with, what they are doing to their spouse will be seen as reasonable.

It isn’t.  It never is.  We must all learn to keep close watch on our own fears, turning them over to the Lord regularly. Failure to do this makes sin attractive, as it offers a corrupt solution to our problem. The sin response is to focus on our fear and the intentions we have, while ignoring the other person’s heart.

In other words, people spend all their time explaining and justifying their destructive actions while never acknowledging the impact on others of what they are doing. It’s especially devastating in the context of a marriage or family. We are all faced with the problem of fear and have a choice about what we will do with itChoose well.

If you or someone you know is struggling with fear, there is help. At The Relationship Center, we have skilled counselors experienced in helping.

depression counselorsOver 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

 

How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography….Part II

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How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part II

Check out Part I here: How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part I

The initial conversation is over.

We started STRONG, sending a clear message: we know about the problem (breaking the silence), we care (empathizing with our son), and we can help (our action plan).

Now it’s time to take the next step, active disciplining of our sons, guiding them into MANHOOD.

EXAMPLE TALK:

 

Who is Present: Dad and Son

Who is NOT There: Other family members or friends.  In fact, Dad has taken steps to ensure there will not be interruptions by others, which would only serve to destroy your son’s confidence in opening up.

Setting: The fire pit in the Yard.  Your son has built the fire (as was agreed upon) and he is excited to show you his handy-work.

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Son: Dad, what do you think?  Pretty good fire, huh.

Dad: Yeah, you did a great job and didn’t even burn the house down!

Son: Well, if I did you are the one who taught me to build fires.

Dad:  That’s true.  Well, let’s get to what we are here to talk about.  I told you I would follow-up with you on the issue of sex and sexual temptation.  It can be a tough and uncomfortable topic for guys to open up about, so the squirming I see you doing is pretty normal.

Son: Yeah, it’s pretty awkward. . . (trailing off).

Dad:  It definitely can be and that’s why I am going to take the lead in this as your dad and carry more of the weight.  I am just going to ask you trust me enough to follow.  Part of my job is to show you how to be a man who serves his heavenly King.  You see, we will all bow our knee in submission to something.  Our choice is whether we will bow to God or to sin.  As you get older, you are going to see a lot of boys and men proudly bowing their knees to sin, thinking it makes them more of a man.

Son: Yeah, I definitely see that at school.  Guys think it’s cool to talk dirty and try to get girls to have sex with them.  It’s really not.

Dad: I agree.  The truth is tsmartphone-459316_1920hose things haven’t changed.  Guys were doing it when I was in school too, we just didn’t have all the technology you have today.  I want to talk with you about how what we see and think about can impact us physically.

Son: But I already had the puberty talk with you, dad.  I know my body is changing.

Dad: Yes, we did have that talk, and I know you are aware of some of the facts about how your body is transitioning from being a boy to a man, but knowing some facts and really understanding what is happening are not the same.  I believe you when you tell me you want to have sexual integrity, to really tackle this issue.  If I told you gaining understanding would really help get you to your goal, would you be willing to take on the challenge, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable?

You are calling your son up, seeing his desire to live a life of integrity and inviting him to accept the difficulty as part of the challenge.  Guys thrive on being called up.

Son: Yes, but it does make me feel weird talking about it.

Dad: The enemy wants us to stay silent and alone, to be scared into trying to do it all on our own.  Why do you think he would want that?

Son: I guess it makes us weaker.

Dad: Absolutely!  Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, but the truth is he is a coward, and wants to get us alone and discouraged, too fearful to reach out for help.  When we are alone we are right where he wants us, ready to be picked off.  You and I talking, in spite of our fears, is an act of FIGHTING BACK!

Son: That’s a cool way of looking at it. I hadn’t realized that before.

Dad: Well, let’s talk about the physical part of sexual temptation.  I know you and I have talked about becoming physically aroused, getting erections, masturbation, and orgasming, but there is more to arousal than those things.  There is a lot going on in your brain.  In fact, you can be aroused without any of those things I just mentioned happening.  Have you ever found yourself noticing or enjoying looking at a girl?

Son: Yes . . . (a little bit timid).teenage crush

Dad: Sure, and that’s a form of being aroused.  What’s it like when you notice a girl you think is attractive?

Son: Well, I just think she is pretty, and kind of look at her.  Don’t guys just do that?

Dad: Guys do notice girls, but there are things going on which they often don’t take time to notice.  For example, have you ever noticed having some enjoyment or excitement when you are checking a girl out?

Son: Yes, I guess I have.  It kind of just feels good.  I don’t know why I like looking, but I just do.

Dad: I really respect your courage in being willing to talk about this.  Let’s keep that going.  When you are looking at a girl you think is beautiful, what do you notice about her?  What are your eyes drawn to?

We are giving our son a chance to talk about his natural attraction to girls without having to resort to locker room humor.  He has the chance to talk candidly with dad about what it’s like to notice and take pleasure in looking at girls.  This ability to have an actual discussion which is not crass is especially important for Christian young men who are trying to live in INTEGRITY.  Often times, we talk about the fundamentals of our sexual attraction and experience, but do not talk about the pleasure involved.  Unintentionally our boys begin to believe the only guys getting to enjoy having sexual attraction are those boys who are giving free reign to their desires.  The message turns into sex being burdensome to Christians while being fun for other guys.  Let’s pick this back up after dad and son have had a chance to talk a bit more. 

Dad:  We’ve talked a bit about the physical arousal and pleasure in noticing girls.  Now I want to examine what we allow ourselves to think about, what goes on in our minds that no one can see but God.

Son:  I know I have thoughts I wish I didn’t have sometimes.  I know they aren’t right, but sometimes it’s so hard. . .

Dad: It really can be.  What’s it like for you when you give in, when you have those thoughts you regret?

Dad opens the door for his son to talk about the challenge of guarding his thoughts in a hyper-sexual world which mislabels impulsivity as being authentic to yourself.  We rejoin the conversation a bit later.

Here are some follow-up questions to use with your son to help the two of you talk about when he struggles in his thought life:

  • What do you do after you have struggled in your thought life?
  • What are you thinking about yourself when you mess up?
  • How long do you feel down/think these thoughts?
  • Do you ever get discouraged?
  • How often do you think other guys struggle in this area?
  • What does God think about your struggle?
  • Does struggling sometimes mean you are not serious about your walk with the Lord?
  • Do you ever just want to give up? (if yes, when does that happen?)

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Cen

Husbands, Love Your Wife

loveWant to know how to love your wife? I’ll show you how. It’s not as hard as you might think. The number one thing you need to know is…LISTEN TO HER!

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-33

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hates their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Husbands, Love Your Wife. . . Listen to Her!

The number one way, time and time again, women say they need to feel loved is by being listened to.  Women who feel unheard also feel unloved, and not loving your wife isn’t an option.  Let’s face it, as men, we come hard wired to view communication in a very utilitarian way.  Guys talk when they have something to say, and usually the something to be said is part of accomplishing a specific task.


John calls his friend to ask him if he has a specific tool for a home improvement project and to see whether or not he has any pointers.  The two men exchange information quickly and efficiently.  Then the call is over.  If John doesn’t call his friend for a few weeks, the man does not wonder if John no longer cares about him.  Instead, if asked about the lack of communication, these men would simply remind the questioner there was nothing needing to be said.


In fact, there is an unwritten code among guys, if another man calls me, saying he was just thinking about me and wanted to talk, I am allowed to punch him in the face.

Not so with our wives.  She needs closeness in relationship with us and feels distant when we have not connected verbally.  Obeying the command of Scripture to love your wife requires men to learn to listen.  You will never lead your home if you cannot listen.  In fact, a huge amount of the stress and hardship I see in my office every week could be prevented if men could master a few simple listening skills:

1st– Body Language Basics:

Men, you communicate your affection and attention with your physical presentation.  It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your wife you are listening if your body language says you aren’t.

How NOT to Listen1. Turn to face her, not just your head – although that is a good start – but the rest of your body as well. When you are into something: watching football, working on a project, or playing a video game, your body is turned towards the activity, reflecting your focus. Do the same for her.

2. Look her in the eyes. The number one complaint I hear as a therapist from women is, “He won’t look me in the eye.” When I say look her in the eye, don’t stare at her, unblinking. Look at her naturally, expressing your intent and desire to hear her.  If she doesn’t have your eyes, you don’t have her heart.

3. Keep your arms open, not crossed or closed.  This communicates being receptive to what she is telling you.

2nd– Think Crock Pot, Not Microwave:

We are all busy and have a lot on our plates.  There are far more demands on your time than you can meet.  What this means, is you are going to have to intentionally schedule time to talk with your wife.  This time needs to be more than the five minutes before you fall asleep after another busy day or the commercial breaks during the big game.

When husbands don’t take time, they engage in what we call attempting to microwave relationship.  They are hoping to accomplish creating a deep and fulfilling relationship with their wife in the time it takes to microwave popcorn.  What is even more interesting is they’re upset when their wife calls them out on it.  Husbands will spin her astute observations into an attack, telling her she is critical and doesn’t appreciate his efforts.

When guys do this in my office, I call them on it “It’s not her fault for noticing you are being a bonehead, you married an intelligent woman.”  Take time with your wife, showing her she is important.  Doing so will communicate your love and allow listening to be possible.

Men resist me on this one, saying they are too busy or it’s unrealistic. However, I have never had a man who tries it ever tell me they regretted the decision.  Trust me, taking time to listen to your wife is the most efficient, time effective way to deal with and prevent problems. 

3rd– Say Something, Stupid!

If you have managed the first two, let’s up the ante still further.  Now it’s time to add to the conversation, actively letting her know you are listening and interested in what she is saying.  We are going to use two simple techniques her:.

  1. Check in with her by putting what she is saying in your words, giving it back to her, and asking if you are hearing this correctly.  Use a simple phrase like, “Is that what I hear you saying,” or “Is that what you mean?”  You are showing your interest in both what she is saying and your intent on hearing it correctly.  This is different than sitting quietly, staring at her, hoping she is happy.  I listen to people professionally and check in with people this way all the time.  Why? Because I can’t read minds, but I can ask questions.
  2. Make statements letting her know you care about what she is telling you.  It’s one thing for her to tell you about a problem, it is quite another for her to know you care deeply.  Here are some suggestions, “Thank you for sharing that,”  “What you are feeling really matters to me”, or “I appreciate the chance to hear your heart.”   WARNING: never say the words “I understand.”  Your job is to help your wife feel listened to.  If she comes to the conclusion you understand, that is fine, it’s her call, don’t make that jump yourself.

4th– Listening Does Not Require You to Agree With Her:

Let’s take an unnecessary burden off of your shoulders.  You can do all of the above without agreeing with your wife.  How is that possible?  Everything mentioned above is for the purpose of actively listening to your wife.  Hearing her and caring about where she is, is simply that, hearing and caring.  You are loving her if you do.  It does not mean you have to agree with her perspective, thoughts, or decisions.  Don’t worry about your listening being a form of agreement.  It isn’t.

God placed the mantel of leading the home squarely on your shoulders.  Leading your wife means loving your wife.  Loving her requires you listen to her.  Single men, if you don’t want this responsibility, don’t get married or be in a relationship.  Married men and men who want to be in relationship, practice the things listed above.   They are not genetically inherited, they are learned.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

Am I Going Crazy? Denial & Sexual Addiction

 Denial with Sex and Porn addictionSteven: “It’s not like I do this kind of stuff all the time. She is overreacting. Most guys look at porn and masturbate way more than me. I can’t believe we are taking up time and money sitting here talking about this issue. I’m sure we are taking up time people with real problems need.

Anna sits across from him on the couch in my office, with eyes red from crying, shaking her head. Is he for real? Does he really believe the words coming out of his mouth? What more, does he think she is foolish enough to believe them? The thought nearly throws her into a rage.

Anna (to me): “Am I overreacting? I mean, I feel so confused, like I am going crazy. But the thought of him looking at all those other women online and then lying to me about it is more than I can stand.

Denial and Sexually Addictive behaviors go hand in hand. They work together to allow sin to flourish in a man’s life. This is why understanding and rooting out denial is a top priority in Christian Counseling. Here is a basic framework for understanding what denial is, how to recognize it, and steps to deal with it:

What is denial?

Denial is the distortion of the truth through various means, allowing for the protection and continuation of destructive behavior. It is dishonesty, pure and simple. Deception can occur not only in what we say, but how we say it, both to ourselves and others. In denial, the facts are distorted and presented in such a way as to minimize the discomfort to the perpetrator.

Why Does He Need Denial?

We can understand this mystery by using a simple word picture. Imagine holding in one hand, your beliefs and convictions about sexual integrity. These beliefs are based on what the Bible has to say about sexuality and subsequent behavior. In the other hand, you are holding a behavior the Bible distinguishes as sinful (ie: viewing pornography, sexual conversations in chat rooms with anonymous partners, soliciting prostitution).

Now imagine holding these items up next to one another. They do not work together. In fact, they are fundamentally opposed. Attempting to continue possessing both leads to significant discomfort or friction. We call this cognitive dissonance. In other words, a person’s beliefs and behavior are at odds. A solution is needed desperately to lessen this uncomfortable friction.

How Does He Use Denial?

Denial becomes the lubricant, alleviating the uncomfortable friction between convictions and actions. In other words, Anna’s husband changed his perception of himself, his behavior, and his impact on others to allow him to continue act out sexually.

How To Recognize Denial:

Denial is sometimes difficult to spot, as it can be carefully woven into what the person is saying. Attempts to detangle or challenge it are often met with more denial, leaving the listener confused and upset. Here are 3 fictionalized men presenting with denial in regards to sexually addictive behavior. They represent some of the most common situations I see in my practice.

Examples of Denial:

Ryan: “I can’t believe you are making such a big deal about this! It is ridiculous! Now we are in an office with a guy we are paying to agree with you and say there is something wrong with me. You have to control everything. Why can’t you just be happy and thankful for what you have? If you are going to drag me into counseling for this, I should tell him about how you rarely have sex with me. I have needs, and if you are too selfish to notice them I have to get them met on my own.

Ryan is escalating and going on the attack with his wife. He is trying to make her believe she is being crazy by suggesting he has a problem. Not only that, but he is attempting to blame her for his actions, making a manipulative, guilt laden accusation. It’s a kind of smokescreen, which he hopes will distract his wife from the problem.

Joe: “ I can see how you would be upset. It’s a tough problem and may have impacted you in a way I did not intend. Anger is not going to help us figure this out, though, we have to be rational. I have been looking at porn, but it doesn’t effect how I feel about you. I love and want to be with you, only you.”

Joe is taking this hurtful behavior and reducing it down to a set of facts. He appears to be empathizing his wife, but he is actually putting her down by insinuating her experience of emotion is lessor and immature. He is also compartmentalizing. Joe wants his wife to accept that he is able to look at other women and lust after them without this impacting his relationship with her. For such a “rational guy” it’s an idea that is completely out of touch with reality.

Peter: “You always seem to get overly reactive and upset in stressful situations. It’s like when you get home from work all stressed out and I have to help you see reason again. We are Christians, but a lot of men struggle with this issue. I struggle with it quite a bit less than most guys. The stuff they look at is disgusting. I looked at naked women, but never went to those extremes. I can and have solved the problem, when you found out and I saw you were hurt, I stopped looking. Why are we here? What else is there to do?

Peter attempts to distract his wife by making broad statements about her behavior. He’s attempting to justify his own behavior while invalidating his wife’s emotions. He is also comparing himself to other men. In his mind, if other men look at pornography, it is not quite so bad. This is especially true since he has heard of men who look at it more frequently than he does and the “stuff they look at” he calls “disgusting.” Peter is practically a saint compared with them.

Dealing With Denial:

Denial is a form of deception in which a person attempts to deceive themselves and others. The goal is to be able to do both what they desire and change or control the way others respond. In the cases above, the husbands are attempting to reach into their wive’s lives and change their perceptions so they will respond in a more favorable manner. Wives who have experienced this do get angry, and it’s easy to understand why. So what can be done about it?

DON’T:

  • Attempt to argue the points he is making through denial.
  • Try to convince him to change his mind.
  • Tell him what to do/Tell him how it is.

DO:

  • Let him know his reasoning does not change the reality of his actions impact on you.
  • Tell him your perception of the problem, but own it as your perception.
  • Tell him what you have decided you are going to do.

Here’s Why:

1. If you attempt to argue with his denial, he is prepared for this action. Do you really believe he thought you’d go down without a fight? He has been preparing for the inevitability of this conversation for a long time. He has been examining how he might present the situation most effectively, addressing points and counter points over the months or even years leading up to this moment. You, on the other hand, are walking into it blind.

2. The best way to handle your formidable debate partner, is not to engage in debate with him. If you do, his response will be predictable. He will have additional denial tools he uses to combat your arguments. He may dig in his heels and get stubborn, focusing solely on disarming your arguments, rather than the content of your message.

  • Instead, if you tell him how you believe his actions have impacted you and your relationship with him, you are staying in your yard. In other words, you are telling him how the situation is for you. It’s less threatening and much more potent if you speak about what you know, and what is happening in your mind.

3. Finally, in anger, I have seen many wive’s issue ultimatums to their husband’s. These are grand speeches or statements, fueled by emotion, and aimed at giving her a sense of control. The problem is, they never actually work. Like it or not, you cannot make him do anything, and, if you are honest with yourself, you don’t really want to.

  • The changes he needs to make should come out of his choice and desire to make them. If you do it for him you will spend the rest of you relationship looking over your shoulder for him to mess up. You will never be at rest because you must keep the pressure on him to ensure he “stays fixed.” Instead, let’s put you in a secure and safe position.
  • Decide what steps you are going to take as a result of his choices. These decisions you have made are independent of him, meaning, just like you cannot make his decisions, he cannot make yours.

If you are ready for things in your relationship to change, then start changing them. You control and are responsible for the part of the relationship you can change. And that change starts today. A few options are to attend counseling of your own, go to a support group, and cease sexual activity with him.

Denial happens in sexual addiction. It’s a sad truth, however, if you know how to spot and deal with it, as outlined above, you have moved from powerless to able.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Sex Addiction Counseling at The Relationship Center

Thinking Errors of Single Men

Single Man ThinkingAs a counselor who has spent several years specializing in working with men, I have come to recognize a few toxic thinking patterns prevalent in guys.  These thought patterns are like bad, outdated software, limiting the performance of an otherwise capable computer.

In other words, toxic thoughts will keep you from realizing your full potential, in any avenue of life.  Let’s identify some toxic thought patterns and examine solutions.

 

Balancing emotion and logical thought

People experience both emotion and thought as part of their ongoing, daily existence.  However, the content and management of these varies greatly across individuals.  Some men are more given to thinking obsessively and becoming emotionally overwhelmed.  Others stay firmly in the arena of logic, reducing most of life to a seemingly objective set of decisions.  Often times, men who are unsure in their ability to manage thought and emotion tend to attempt to live on the logical side, avoiding emotion.  Emotions are experienced, but they are a private affair, being held and dealt with internally.

There are some real advantages for a guy to stay on the logical side:
  1. He’s good at it.  He can put together a reasoned, logical argument, and pick apart another stance with little effort.
  2. It renders him emotionally safe.  In other words, he has no significant emotional investment in his interactions with others.  As such, he is behind a kind of fortress wall, keeping him from harm.  He can have a debate with you, but doesn’t know how to have a relationship.
  3. Probably hardest reason to hear: it often positions him as superior.  Now, most guys who actually do this will quickly have a logical argument explaining they are not attempting to be superior, but let’s have the courage to take a look.   The problem is his way of thinking becomes the measuring stick by which he assesses all others.  If something makes sense to him (is logical), it is possible.  If something does not make sense, then it cannot be true.  He holds the standard by which others thoughts and feelings are assessed, and he’s rigid in clinging to his assessment.

These men tend to exhibit excessive focus on task accomplishment and career identity, insensitivity to the needs of others, and a way of relating to others which is seen as “aloof.”  It’s like you need to remind men who operate like this that Vulcan’s were actually a fictional character on Star Trek, not an ideal to be aspired to.

Solution: You need both emotion and logic.  Life is not a math problem, nor should it be a soap opera.  Learn to identify what you are thinking and what you are feeling, noticing the connections between the two.  Pay attention to what you see in yourself, like a curious observer, having the courage to take in what’s there.  From this stance, you’ll be in a strong position to allow the Lord to refine the man you are into the man He has for you to be.  Finally, allow others access to your previously private experience of emotion.
 

Rigid categorization of people, events, ideas

Decisiveness is not a bad trait, however, attempting to quickly define people, events, ideas using an “all good or all bad” system is not workable.  Often, it is a tool of convenience, quickly simplifying life.  Simply place things in one category or another.  Single men using this way of thinking will quickly attempt to have others “figured out” and respond to them accordingly.  People are either worthwhile individuals he will engage or simply part of the background.  Again, this way of thinking provides the illusion of safety, similar to being logical.  It prevents the man from wasting his time or getting hurt by taking risks in relationship.

Solution:  Life is a bit messy.  Let go of some of your control and allow things to unfold.  Stay engaged, rather than checking out in relationships and see what happens.  You might notice some successes in forming close relationships, as well as some failures along the way.  However, the failures likely won’t be as devastating as you thought.
 

The “there’s something better” stance in life. 

It’s a position of always looking around rather than being where you are.  The man fantasizes about what he might do or could do given the opportunity, all at the expense of the life he is currently living.  It allows him only limited availability for the life he is actually living.  Additionally, contentment with where he is currently at is seen as “settling”, a word sure to turn the stomach of any man.  Stewardship is the answer.  A man can and should have aspirations, but not at the expense of where is today.  These aspirations should not take the form of fantasies that anesthetize him from reality.  Instead, he needs to remain firmly in the reality of the present.

Solution:  Stewardship.  What has God given you today, and what are you doing with it?  Not what you want Him to give you or what you might have tomorrow.  Tend what you have to the best of your ability.  Work to refine and be an expert with little.  The benefits are huge.  Read Matthew 25:14-23 & Luke 19:12-19.
 

Parable of the Three Servants

 14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
 
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of  how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography

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Everyone knows the statistics about boys using pornography, unless, they live on an island in the middle of the ocean. Of course, they’d probably have internet access there too!

There is an epidemic of boys turning to internet pornography, using it frequently and developing a habit which could plague them for years to come. It’s an issue I am seeing more and more of in my office, as a therapist specializing in working with families and men’s issues. Parents come in upset, unsure of what to do, having found their son is looking at porn. It’s very important how you respond. Your son doesn’t just need an anatomy lesson, he needs a Biblical moral framework through which to understand himself and the problem.

Here is some clear, practical guidance on this particular issue from the counselor’s office:

1. Let’s Avoid the Extremes:

Responses can often arise out of one of two camps:

On one end, we have the worldly, secular perspectiveBoys are just curious about their sexuality, arousal, and the female body. They will do exploring which is normal, healthy, and should be encouraged. The chief goal here is to avoid them experiencing any shame about the pornography and sexual content they are viewing. We will dress that in some kind of secular morality, where we tell the boy it is okay to be curious and look at porn, just don’t objectify women.  Maybe he should look at sexual content in which women are featured as powerful.

Confused yet?  It’s the post-modern mindset. There’s no right or wrong, just perspective. Feeling any kind of shame is bad. This kind of thinking ends with a self-serving man who worships his own desires, spurning correction. Wow, that’s sounds bleak! Well, so life is without God.

The second extreme is not much better. Parents find out their son has looked at pornography and react purely out of fear, without any wise counsel. They respond as if the boy is now permanently damaged, beyond repair. The parents drill into the child, “We didn’t raise you to do this kind of stuff, don’t you get how serious this is”, and so on and so forth. The boy learns a few things from the experience:

  1. If you are struggling, don’t go to mom and dad, they don’t know what to do and will overwhelm you with their response.
  2. Either I am the only person weak enough to struggle with this, or other people are just hypocrites and fake.
  3. If I really loved God I wouldn’t struggle with sin.

2. Get Some Perspective:

Instead of these responses let’s try something different. Pornography use is serious. It’s an issue of lust and can be destructive to the boy’s life, just like any sin. Sin is destructive, leading us to harm. We are all born sinners leaning towards our own destruction, and will struggle with it on an ongoing basis until we die. Sexual sin is often times, in my experience working with boys, the first time they have encountered and really had to deal with their sin nature in an ongoing way.

In other words, up until this point, when the boy has said an unkind thing or taken what does not belong to him, the solution has been simple. He goes and apologizes or returns the item. He feels remorse, and in many cases, no strong desire to return to the destructive behavior. However, now enters sexual temptation.

For the first time, he is both genuinely sorrowful and ashamed of what he has done but is drawn strongly to act-out again. The boy questions his commitment, sincerity, and relationship with God. After all, if he was truly sorry, wouldn’t he stop? Do you see where this is leading? The sin natures a fundamental problem, all people must come to terms with, and for many boys, sex is the issue which first brings it out.

They can either deny the existence of sin, as in the case of a humanistic perspective, there is no God and therefore, no sin, only socially imposed morality creating unnecessary shame. Or we can accept, as the Apostle Paul did, that we all struggle with sin.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:14-15 (NIV)

Here is Paul, a man who has seen Jesus, and been sent as an apostle to grow the church among the Gentiles, talking about struggling with sin. It is a humbling statement, reminding each of us, we need a savior. Parents, which of us has fully mastered our sin nature? I answer with a confident “none.” Our son’s need to hear this, not to give them an excuse to sin more, but an encouragement, helping them too understand the grace and forgiveness of God.

3. The Talk:

Now, how do we engage this boy in a meaningful dialogue, avoiding the extremes and having an accurate perspective on the problem?

Who: Present, at least initially, should be all three people (Son, Mom & Dad). Which parent has the closer relationship with the boy? That parent should take the lead in the three person conversation initially. If mother is the closer parent, this is fine. You can be part of this initial conversation. However, over time, Dads, this is a matter of you son coming into manhood and God has placed you in his life to offer guidance and direction on this journey. You should transition to the parent taking the lead in this issue. If you are uncomfortable or unsure how, speak with a counselor, pastor, or another, older man who is spiritually mature and has successfully walking his own sons through understanding sex and sexual issues.

Where: A comfortable, private environment, without distractions.

When: Not right after you, parent, found out. Talking through things while emotions are high and you have not had time to process them is unwise. Taking a day or two to put your thoughts together and get counsel is appropriate. But wait, what about the issue at hand? If I don’t address it now, that’s a mistake. No, if you don’t address it wisely, that is a mistake.

Communicate to your son this is an issue you will be revisiting, and set a day and time. Additionally, make sure he no longer has access to pornography (ie: limit internet access). Those two things you can do now. Your task, when you initially find out about your son’s porn use is to let him know and plug the holes in the boat (ie: discover routes of obtaining the material and block these access points). That’s it. There is nothing wrong with telling him this is a serious issue, and you are glad he has brought it to you. Simply tell him you will need to talk further about it later.

Length: Not long, 30 minutes max, unless your son wants to talk longer. This is typically more of a problem for mothers. It is at this point I have to remind you as a counselor, your son is not a girl.

Boys do not typically sit and talk at length about issues. They are mission/task oriented in their communication and do not do well with ambiguous dialogue.

Content: Bite-Size. We are not covering everything in one marathon talk. If you want to train your boy to cringe and hide from you every time you have a concerned look on your face, ambush him with long conversations. Think of one or two small things or “bites” you are looking to accomplish in the discussion. He can only really take in a piece at a time, and overloading him only serves to alleviate your anxiety (and then leads to frustration as he “checks out” of the conversation).

EXAMPLE TALK:

Setting Porch at the Family Home.

Present- Son, Mom & Dad.

Not Present (equally important)- Siblings, who are at a friend’s house.

DadSon, as you know, your mother and I are aware you have been looking at pornography and we are concerned about this. As your parents, it’s our job to guide you into becoming the man God has for you to be, and this material is harmful. Now, I recognize this can be very embarrassing to talk about, maybe you wish we would leave it alone, but that would be unwise.
Son: Yes, I know I shouldn’t have been looking at that stuff. It’s very embarrassing to talk about.
Dad: I hear that, it’s awkward to sit down and have this discussion with your parents.
Mom: Son, would you be more comfortable if you and your father had the conversation without me present? I wouldn’t be offended, it matters to me what you think.
Son: I’m okay.
Mom: All right, if that changes, will you let me know?
Son: Yes.
Dad: When was the first time you looked at pornography on our computers?
Son: It’s been a while, I really can’t remember when.
Dad: Had you looked at it prior to your last birthday?
Son: No, I hadn’t yet. I guess it was about two months after that, sometime in June, I think.


*Why is it so hard for him to remember? The two most common reasons I come across are deception or a combination of shame and avoidance.

  1. Deception usually happens with young men who are more immature and impulsive. His parent’s faith in God is exactly that, their faith, not his. His primary driver, in this situation, is preserve his own freedom to do what he wants.
    • Conversations about serious issues are especially boring and pointless to him. He will do all in his power to end them quickly and limit any consequences he could face.
    • He is short-sighted, sacrificing his integrity to ensure he is still allowed to go out Friday night with friends.
    • The approach with this young man will be primarily behavioral with small amounts of discussion. More specifically, he learns by having his privileges restricted by those outside of himself. He does not self-regulate (make changes himself).
    • If this describes your son, more in depth conversations will occur following the consistent implementation of discipline. Obedience will be present prior to any understanding.
  2. Shame and avoidance are present when a boy is conflicted about his behavior. Typically, this is a young man who has a personal relationship with God and a more mature perspective.
    • He does not need anyone to tell him what he is doing is wrong, he feels the weight of this for himself.
    • He experiences significant shame for his actions and has attempted to correct his behavior himself. However, the behavior has become a cycle for him. In other words, he looks at porn, feels shame and guilt, repents, promises himself he will not do it again, attempts to move forward and put the past behind him, and then stumbles again.
    • This young man feels such shame, he attempts not to think about what he has done, hence the avoidance. He works to forget what has happened, which makes recalling events difficult. In a sense, whereas the first boy deceives others, this young man works to deceive himself because reality is painful.
    • Handling this young man will involve more guidance and relationship, relying less on behavioral interventions (grounding, loss of privileges, etc).

Dad: Okay, where did you go to find the images?
Son: I didn’t have to go anywhere. I wasn’t even meaning to find them. I was playing around on Facebook and visited a friend’s page. He had some pictures of girls in swimsuits with a link. I knew it was wrong, but I clicked on the link. . . (trailing off).
Dad: Sounds like you were kind of caught off guard. Temptation works like that sometimes. So you clicked on the link, and then what happened?
Son: It took me to a page with pictures of girls, some of them in bikinis and some of them without clothes. I just kept looking and clicking.
Dad: Wow, so the link took you to a page with some very powerful images on it. You started looking and struggled to stop.
Son: Yes, and I felt terrible. I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I told myself I would never do this again.
Dad: And then what, how long did you go without looking again.
Son: Like two weeks. At first, it was easy, but then it got hard. I kept thinking about looking again. Eventually, when you and mom were out and I was alone, I went back and looked. I felt horrible all over again. I prayed again and really meant it. I told God I was going to stop.
Dad: It sounds like you have really been wrestling with this problem. You even did what mom and I have taught you to do by taking it to the Lord in prayer. I am glad you did that.
Son: But it didn’t work.
Dad: What do you mean?
Son: I kept doing it again. Pretty soon, I didn’t even pray anymore. I mean, if I was really sorry I would stop, right? Why would I keep doing something over and over again? If felt so fake.
Dad: I am hearing this has been confusing and difficult for you. Can I help you to understand it?
Son: Yes, I guess.
Dad: Good. Son, this is the first time, probably, you have had to deal with a sin issue that doesn’t go away easily. Do you remember the time we caught you lying about your homework?
Son: Yes.
Dad: We talked about it, disciplined you, and then what happened?
Son: I didn’t lie about homework anymore.
Dad: Yes, exactly. I bet you weren’t even very tempted to lie again.
Son: No, I wasn’t. I didn’t like how lying made me feel or getting in trouble.
Dad: To this point in your life, sin has been like this for you, kind of simple. However, now, as you are getting older, you are going to start having challenges like this, which are very different. It means you are going to be doing some really amazing growing in you understanding and faith. You know all those Bible stories we have taught you over the years?
Son: Yes.
Dad: Well, many of the people in those stories struggled with issues that weren’t really that easy, or simple. In fact, many of them had a decision to make: get discouraged and quit, or trust in God.
Son: I did trust in God, and He didn’t take this away.
DadThe reason God didn’t take it away is because your sexuality is a gift from Him. God made you to be sexual and does not want to take that away from you. God wants you to grow to enjoy this part of how he made you, within the plan and boundaries He has set. The issue is that Satan always tries to distort what God has given us with sinful motives and actions.
Son: I guess that makes sense.
Dad: This is a lot to take in, so don’t worry about understanding everything right away. Today’s conversation has been about getting the problem on the table. From here, I am going to help you in two ways. First, I am going to work to help you plug the leaks in your life. You and I will see where you are getting access to pornography and put some boundaries there. Boundaries help to keep us away from situations that are harmful. Believe it or not, I have boundaries for myself when it comes to the internet and what I look at. Second, you and I are going to meet to talk through this issue. We’ll set a weekly time to get together, maybe sit out by the fire pit. I know we both like that.
Son: That sounds okay. I do like sitting by the fire. Can help set it up?
Dad: Sure, in fact, I think that could be your responsibility. Well, do you have any questions or concerns?
Son: No, not really.
Dad: Well, how are you feeling?
Son: Kind of relieved. This wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Dad: Great. These things can be tough, but they can be talked about. Let’s end in prayer.


Let’s summarize the talk:

  1. We broke the silence, talking with our son about a difficult, sin issue.
      • We worked to identify when the problem started and hear a little bit of how our son felt. Notice, we did not go in depth or attempt to find out all the details. This is because this talk was the beginning, not the totality of what we are doing.
      • When we attempt to have too epic of a conversation with our teenage son, in a way, we are doing the same thing he is, attempting to make the problem disappear in one stroke. It doesn’t work and we get discouraged.
  2. We empathized and validated our son. He got to hear us recognize how difficult this is for him and how trapped he must have felt.
  3. We put together a plan of action to instill hope. We included the practical step of taking away opportunities to view pornography while also making a plan to have ongoing discussions.

This article is only an introduction to the topic of pornography and teenage boys. There may be questions or concerns you have in regards to the issue. If that is the case, you are welcome to contact Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC at The Relationship Center. We would welcome the chance to advise you.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Anxiety in Men: Common Warning Signs

anxiety

Anxiety in men is real and impacts life substantially.  However, it often goes unnoticed, by both the man and those who care about him.  When the “a” word is used, the response is immediate, “No, I am not anxious!”  The old saying is true: a man isn’t afraid, he’s just concerned.  As a therapist who specializes in working with men, there are common warning signs of anxiety I look for.  A man won’t use words like anxiety or fear, but he may identify as:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities and expectations.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.
  3. Being easily fatigued.
  4. Restlessness and inability to relax.
  5. Feeling unable to control or manage his worry.
  6. Becoming less effective/productive in work and home responsibilities.

*See below to learn more about each of the seven warning signs of anxiety in men.

  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.  Men are like pick-up trucks.  They are built to work and haul loads (life responsibilities).  In fact, just like a pick-up, if there’s no load in the back, their handling can get kind of wild (think of the way many young, single men live and behave).  While it’s good for him to carry a load, sometimes life’s load gets imbalanced or he is not effective in carrying it.  Generally, instead of recognizing this and communicating a need for help, he will struggle silently, growing more frustrated.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.  Like it or not, most men anxiety/fear with weakness.  Weakness is not something he is comfortable with, at least his own weakness.  Men will often make flippant comments about the box of tissues in my office, trying to joke with me about needing it.  Anger, in the form of irritability, frustration, being demanding/controlling, is a safe way for a man to express fear.  Anger gives the illusion of power and mastery.  However, it is ineffective in solving the real problem.  Think of it another way.  If a child is afraid or overwhelmed emotionally, they will often react with anger.  They feel powerless, and to deal with this, they are using angry outbursts to demand control.  It’s as if they are saying, “If I get angry, I won’t have to feel afraid anymore/If I have a choice between anger and fear, I choose anger.”   
  3. Being easily fatigued.  If a man loses the “zip” in his step or enthusiasm for life, it can be a sign he is struggling.  Anxiety is one of the most energy zapping emotions.  It has the effect of causing a man to expend several times the usual amount of energy to accomplish the same tasks.  I use the following example with men:

a b line

There are two points above, A & B.  The line takes me from A to B in the simplest, most efficient way possible – in a straight line.  Only the necessary amount of energy is expended in this example, but what happens if we add anxiety?

Anxiety makes a big difference, taking our once straight line and turning it into a phone cord.  Yes, the man is still able to get from A to B, but if we stretch out the line, it’s clear he has had to go farther and expend more energy to get there.  No wonder he is so tired.

  1. Restlessness and inability to relax.  Once we realize why our guy is so fatigued, it’s clear he needs to rest. The problem is, he can’t.  Strong feelings of anxiety keep causing him to feel as if rest is not a good idea.  He must remain vigilant, even if he does not have a good reason to.  Explaining this to loved ones is difficult.  In counseling, I use the example of a fire alarm.  Imagine if you are in a building and its very loud fire alarm is sounding.  It causes you to feel the need to act, to get out of the building, exactly what it was designed to do.  Now imagine a loved one was there in the building with you, but they could not hear the alarm.  They keep telling you to lie down and rest, maybe even take a nap, but it’s impossible.  You try to explain this to them, but they just don’t get it.  Hunger is only a burden to those without food to eat, but for the rest of us, it’s just a cue to go to the refrigerator.  Fatigue is only a burden to those who cannot rest.
  2. Feeling unable to control or manage his worry.  Some anxiety is normal and a part of life.  Too much can be an inescapable burden.  Most of us are working to manage our anxiety throughout our day.  It’s like we are juggling balls, and most of the time, feel pretty adept at doing so.  However, the man who is anxious feels as if he has way too many balls to juggle.  No matter how much he tries to manage them better he keeps dropping them.  Anxiety goes from being a normal life experience to a sign that something bad is about to happen.    
  3. Becoming less effective/productive in work and home responsibilities.  Too much anxiety has the net effect of making a man less effective in important areas of his life.  He is unable to concentrate his efforts and energies on the task at hand, leading to poor performance.  His problems are also beginning to multiply.  As his productivity lessens, his backlog increases and so does his anxiety.  An insurmountable obstacle is forming, which will cause him significant problems down the road.  Anxiety has worked to justify its existence by creating real, identifiable problems.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, there is competent, caring help available.  At The Relationship Center, we have counselors who specialize in helping men with anxiety.  Give us a call today at 417-763-3309. 

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders
(4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

anxiety counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Mistakes Men Make When Talking to Their Wives

As a counselor who specializes in working with men, Cracking a SafeI often sit with guys who are at their wits end in trying to talk to their wives. It’s an age old problem: How on earth does he talk to this woman?

She makes no sense to him, much of the time. He wants to have a good relationship, but this seems completely out of reach. Men frequently make a common, three step mistake in attempting to talk to their wives. The mistakes men make when talking to their wives is outlined here.

Step 1: Cracking the Safe

When I sit with men having relationship issues, it is often like watching an old fashioned bank robbery.

He is sitting at the safe door with a stethoscope, listening intently, as he turns the safe dial a little bit at a time, trying to figure out the combination. The man wants to be able to talk to his wife, and is convinced he must figure out the “combination” to do so. To him, it’s a simple trial and error method.

He’s come to session excited, barely able to contain the great news. It has finally worked! He shares with me after years of trying to figure out how to approach his wife about difficult issues, he found a way that seems to work. By “work”, he means she does not become overly emotional or escalate into a rage. Now, he has a tool he can pull out of his toolbox, as needed. No more anxiety and dread, he knows how to handle her.

Gradually, by trying various techniques, he will find a way that works and his problem will be solved, or so he thinks.

Step 2: Managing Her

With his new tool, the man is attempting to do something which is impossible for him, managing his wife’s emotions, behaviors, and attitudes for her. Let’s break it down using his logic: “If I do ________ she will respond with ________. Her response is dependent on and dictated by my action.” The logic seems very compelling, except it is fundamentally flawed. First, as mentioned previously, he is taking responsibility for her emotions, behaviors, and attitudes. These are her responsibility. She must be the one to handle them. Second, if his objective in responding the way he does is to illicit in her the response he desires, that is, by definition, manipulation. Ouch! She is not free to own her stuff and he feels trapped by her response.

Step 3: Seeking Stability

The ultimate goal is stability, not a real relationship. The man, without knowing it, is trying to exercise control over events to create the stability he desires in his life. In other words, if he responds in a certain way, he can and should have her respond to him in the way he wants. No meaningful intimacy or growth, for either partner, can occur in such an environment. Instead, it is a way of avoiding discomfort – that is the ultimate goal.

The Answer

Relationship is process, not solution driven. For men, this is difficult to wrap our heads around, but we must. We like lasting solutions and routine. However, the reality of a relationship is it is dynamic and changing. In other words, if we actually succeeded in what we were after, our relationship would lack excitement, adventure, and romance. We in turn, would probably lose interest.

Think of the idea of a process this way, if you decided to start exercising and eating right, you would do this on a daily basis. It would be a kind of lifestyle change. You would not look the mirror one day and say “Well, I look the way I wanted, so I guess I am done.” If you did, you would quickly return to the way you were before. You keep going in the process, seeing it as where you need to be and stop looking for the one answer or the destination. Your job is not to find out the exact way to approach your wife so she responds the way you want her to. Your goal is to have an ongoing, growing relationship with her.

The discomfort of friction is essential for both of you. Friction is the means by which we both smooth our rough edges and grow. Focusing all your efforts on avoiding friction will only create stagnation.

Often times, men need guidance in this process. If you do, get the help you need. Counselors at The Relationship Center are experienced in helping couples succeed in this process.

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

Depression in Men: Common Warning Signs

Depression in men is real and impacts life substantially.  However, it often goes unnoticed, by both the man and those who care about him.  When the “d” word is used, the response is immediate, “No, I am not depressed!”  As a therapist who specializes in working  with men, there are common warning signs of depression I look for.  A man won’t use words like depression or sadness, but he may identify as:

tired-man

  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.
  3. Being overly tired or not having the energy he once had.
  4. Sleeping too much or too little.
  5. Eating too much and not taking care of himself.
  6. Having few if any close interpersonal relationships outside of spouse.
  7. Feeling inadequate, incapable, or incompetent.

*See below to learn more about each of the seven warning signs of depression in men.

  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.  Men are like pick-up trucks.  They are built to work and haul loads (life responsibilities).  In fact, just like a pick-up, if there’s no load in the back, their handling can get kind of wild (think of the way many young, single men live and behave).  While it’s good for him to carry a load, sometimes life’s load gets imbalanced or he is not effective in carrying it.  Generally, instead of recognizing this and communicating a need for help, he will struggle silently, growing more frustrated.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.  Like it or not, most men equate sadness with weakness.  Weakness is not something he is comfortable with, at least his own weakness.  Men will often make flippant comments about the box of tissues in my office, trying to joke with me about needing it.  Anger, in the form of irritability, frustration, being demanding/controlling, is safe for a man to express.  Anger gives the illusion of power and mastery.
  3. Being overly tired or not having the energy he once had.  If a man loses the “zip” in his step or enthusiasm for life, it can be a sign he is struggling.  Men have an energy to go forth and conquer in life.  Feeling defeated or beaten down can steal his joy.
  4. Sleeping too much or too little.  Pretty straight forward.  Look for a man to have trouble getting up on time and moving in the morning or to have difficulty sleeping.  He may also nap excessively.
  5. Eating too much and not taking care of oneself.  Our bodies and the way we care for them are often an outward manifestation of our internal condition.  In other words, the man who treats his body badly, is showing how he feels about himself.  It can also manifest in the opposite, for instance, if a man is trying to find some sense of control/mastery in life or he feels insecure, he may spend excessive time and energy on his physical appearance.
  6. Having few if any close interpersonal relationships outside of spouse.  The man who doesn’t have time for meaningful relationships outside of his wife is a lonely man, even if he is not aware of it.  I often confront men with their own “neediness.”  In other words, whether he likes it or not, he is human and has needs.  One of these needs is to be connected with other people, outside of work.  If he does not meet this need, it doesn’t go away, it just deepens.  It’s like hunger.  Not eating over time does not mean a man overcomes his dependence on food, it just means he becomes emaciated.
  7. Feeling inadequate, incapable, or incompetent.  These three words have been a part of my work with nearly every man I have met over the years.  A man who struggles with any or all of these is not at peace with himself or the world around him.  For women reading this article and trying to understand men, consider the following:  You may struggle at times with appearance, acceptance, and belonging.  Those are powerful issues for you as a women.  These three “I’s” are the equivalent issues of significance for men.  He will go to almost any lengths either to correct or numb these.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with depression, there is hope.  At The Relationship Center, our counselors specialize in helping men with these issues and their spouses/families.  Contact us today to speak directly with a counselor.  We would be happy to answer your questions.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specializes in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Depression Counseling at The Relationship Center

Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 3

Part 3  The Confusion of Relapse:

Sobriety & Lapses

Among the most compelling questions for people struggling with addiction and those who love them is the phenomenon diagramed above.  In short, the variations in the amount of time between addictive acting-out lead to a sort of false security.  Let’s examine this more closely.

In the diagram above, there is a line representing time, progressing forward predictably.  Circles, showing the addiction cycle (explained in the two previous pages) are superimposed on the timeline.  The circles remain the same, except for one characteristic, size.  Some of the cycles are larger, allowing more time between lapses, and some are smaller, with very limited time between acting-out.  However, the end result is always the same, destructive behavior.

Now comes the confusion.  People mistake sobriety with recovery.

Sobriety is ongoing time spent refraining from the destructive, addictive behavior.  Periods of sobriety can vary, from very short, hours or days, to very long, months or years. 

Recovery is the active, ongoing change of the individual’s way of living.  It involves the alteration of the person’s very foundation, making them incapable of producing the fruit of destruction any longer.  In recovery, a person lives for what they are now free to do.

In simple sobriety, life is about a list of “don’ts.”   Recovery does not happen without staying active in treatment!  For the addict, this means accepting that you cannot do this on your own and need help.  For those who love them, you must no longer enable the addict by accepting their excuses about lapses being isolated incidents which will not be repeated.  Life would be easier if this were true, but it is only a seductive fantasy.  This easier life does not exist, it is a manifestation of avoidance, an essential component of an addictive system.

How do you recognize if a person is truly in recovery, or simply remaining sober?  It’s a prudent question, asked by the people who have been hurt.  There simply is no completely safe way to love.  However, in true repentance, certain evidence should be present.  Specifically, if the individual has truly surrendered to Christ, they have become a new creation, or a new “tree.”  As such, we examine the fruit they are now producing:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. -Galatians 5:22-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today!