Reconciling Relationships

It won’t take as long as you fear, but it will take longer than you would like.  Trust the process.

Reconciling Relationships2Sometimes a separation in a marriage is a necessary step in order to ensure safety and to have each individual work on themselves.  I’ve seen couples put marriages back together again and others not be able to.  In fact, I know this path well as my husband and I were able to reconcile our marriage after a seven-month separation.  Too often, couples want to rush past the necessary steps and go to where they want to be or wish they were.  This simply backfires.  So, in this blog post I would like to outline the steps for those who want to put their relationship back together again.

It won’t take as long as you fear, but it will take longer than you would like.  Trust the process.

Safety First

One of the biggest reasons to separate is because in some way one or both of the partners are not safe.  They are either physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally unsafe.  They don’t know how to discuss things, be emotional, or live life without some kind of a blow up and more hurt happens.

If either substance or abuse are a part of the issues, these are personal issues and a separation is necessary for the abuser to deal with their personal issues.  You cannot do marriage counseling when there is addiction or abuse present. 

A separation needs to actually be separate; little to no contact.  Some of these things can happen simultaneously or overlap each other, but you should not jump ahead too far and try to resolve conflict before creating safety.

Staying on Your Own Side of the Street

The goal here is not to cast or claim ‘fault’.  Your goal is to name the areas you need to work on and change.  List out what is NOT OK in the marriage.  You need to be able to name it, before it can be addressed.

Next, you need to examine how you have hurt the marriage.  It’s so easy to see how your mate has offended you but this is a time to consider how you need to change.  Please note: your sins and offenses do not have to be equal.  In other words, your mate may have cheated on you, lied, done drugs, spent all the money, burnt the house down, but in this process, you might have responded by not holding them accountable to let them reap the consequences for their actions.  Or perhaps you responded to their sins with criticism and hostility.  You don’t get to justify your criticism and hostility because they sinned bigger.

It can actually be legitimate to come out the other side and believe that you have done nothing to offend the marriage and it might be true.  Certainly, if one person is thinking everything is good in the marriage and the other person is hiding and lying they really can’t address unknown issues.  One person really can have personal issues that affect the relationship and the spouse doesn’t know how to respond.  These are legitimate reasons believe the issues are one-sided.  But it’s still a good time to ask yourself the question.

Here’s one problem: If everything is the other person’s fault, then there isn’t anything you can do to change your situation.

Here’s the other problem: If everything has been your fault and you’ve tried to change every way you can think of and you still have problems, maybe you are not naming the problem correctly.  Get help.

Remember: you aren’t trying to cast or claim ‘fault’.  But if you can figure out what Me, Myself, and I need to do differently, then you can change your situation.  Maybe what you need to do is to set some good boundaries.

At some point, when each person is ready, they come together with a third-party present, to talk about what the issues are and what is their part is to change.

If this can be discussed and agreed on, then you can move forward.  If this cannot be agreed on, blame is cast, accusations hurled, there is no agreement on past issues, then the marriage isn’t ready to move forward.

Building Trust

Once the couple agrees what the problems have been and each person begins to take responsibility of their part, then trust can begin to be established.  To build trust there must be evidence.  Trust is not built through guilt or manipulation.  It is not forced.  It is built through seeing bank statements, phone records, drug tests, GPS, confirming attendance at meetings, or any number of other records.  This is openly communicated by the person who broke trust.  If one person never had a spending problem, they will not need to show bank records.  The person who needs to establish trust needs to willingly offer evidence.  This is the fastest way to build trust (other than not violating trust again.)

Amends

Real Amends need to be made.  In most cases, both people will need to do this.  This is where the offender admits specifically for the ways they have offended.  Not every incident, but ways they have wounded a person.  Example: I have lied to you, manipulated, made you think things that were not true, broken agreements, etc.

An amend includes ways in which you hope to heal the hurt in the person you have hurt. Example:  I will respect your wishes for communication, I will prove my words with receipts, I will give you access to my accounts.

An apology needs to be free of if’s, but’s, and just’s.  These words dilute the apology.  Example: I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me mad.

After the above-mentioned things, you need to actually ask for forgiveness.  NOT: ‘I hope you can forgive me’, because that feels like a dump truck backing up and unloading a guilty-tripping pile of dung.  Using the words ‘will you please forgive me’ takes humility and it’s hard, and it frees us.

Acknowledge the hurt you have caused.  This is an important step because the person begins to feel heard and seen again.

Accept the consequences of your actions.  Accept the separation, the debt, the hurt feelings, going to jail, or whatever the consequences are of your actions.  This is one of the most healing things you can do for the person you have hurt.  It shows you understand the gravity of what you have done.  The Serenity Prayer is vital here.

If what is confessed is later used against you, you can know that this is still an unhealthy person you are dealing with and you cannot continue to move forward.

Building Boundaries

My definition of boundaries: A decision I am going to make given your actions.  It’s not a wall when you can’t take it anymore…it’s not stonewalling and avoiding…it’s an invitation into the land of healthy.  It’s saying, “If you yell at me, I will…leave the room, go to a hotel for the night, etc.  When you can speak with care and concern to resolve the issue, I will come back.”  It says, “I will engage with you when we can both be healthy.”

Boundaries are so important in any healthy relationship.  Each person needs to be able to have a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’.  What works for them and what doesn’t work, without receiving backlash of pouting, yelling, stonewalling, threats, or retribution of any kind.   Boundaries are the foundation to both love and respect.

Talking Kindly About Nothing

Both people need to be able to be present, with a third-party present, and be civil (and dare I say kind) to one another and not just in your words.  Death stares, clinched fists, slamming doors, avoidance, one-word utterances won’t work.    You need to be able to talk about the weather, the kid’s school program, or a change in schedule like you would someone that you like.

Resolving Conflict About Important Things

Again, with a third-party present and once talking about nothing can be civil, you need to start to talk about important things like problems and icky feelings with civility and kindness.  There can be no name calling, blaming, over-talking, demanding, lying, pouting, screaming, justifying, etc.  You can’t be hurling issues that have been resolved, bringing issues up that have no bearing on the current issue, or making things up in your head.  You talk about facts and feelings as though you care for one another.  Hard things are brought up with tenderness and compassion.

Resolving Conflict Without A Third-Party Present

Once this skill is established, you can begin to have these conversations on your own.  This should be done at a time and place where either party can leave if things don’t go well.  The conversation then goes back with a third-party present to help resolve the issue.  After several successes of having healthy conflict, it’s time to begin considering ending the separation.

Building Intimacy and Moving Forward

Intimacy is far more than sex.  It is sharing dreams, frustrations, successes, hurts, and hopes.  Often times, the couple has never known a time in their marriage (or in their lives) when they experienced real intimacy.  They first have to learn to become intimate with themselves and with God first to even know what their dreams or hurts are.  Only then can they begin to share them with another safe person.  To be a safe person, we must learn to listen and hold space for another person who is feeling their emotions, without correction, despise, or anger.

 

Diane Langberg writes, “I learned the paradoxical lesson that sometimes the way to fight against sin and suffering is to wait. We destroy the dignity of others when we refuse to wait for them –whether they need to tie their own shoes or they are struggling to find words for the indescribable. We bestow honor on another when we consider him or her worth waiting for.”

 

How Romance Novels are Psychologically Dangerous

Here inlays a problem with a multitude of romance stories: the author ‘shows’ you she says ‘no’, but tells you that she secretly wants to be kidnapped. 

RomanceNovelsI recently finished a book recommended to me called Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. When I read the Amazon description of the book, I gave the person who recommended the book fair warning; this is a Christian romance novel and I’m probably too jaded to appreciate it.  This person assured me I would love it as it is a story of the book of Hosea written in the setting of the gold country in the 1850’s.  Let’s just say, there are so many issues I have with this romance story that I cannot recommend this book.

To begin, I’d like to note, this is the first romance novel I have read since I was about 12 years old and so I cannot speak to all romance novels.  But the issues I have with this book are very similar to issues I have with most romance movies and thus why I have given up on them as well.  My husband even has fun telling me the names of the Hallmark movies he encounters to watch me fake-gag; ‘Love at First Bark’ and ‘Frozen in Love’ are just a little bit too much for me.

The Good

Of course, as with any good lie there is always an element of truth.  The hero of this story, Michael Hosea, has many good qualities; he loves God, is righteous on many levels, is a rescuer, he attempts to hear God, and acknowledges his own need for redemption.  It shows he waits for intimacy until she is ready and he has a good balance between rugged-toughness and sensitivity. This is a story of attempting to love in the midst of the need to forgive many times over.  There are several good lessons to learn from it.

The Problems

Michael Hosea is represented as an amazing, God-fearing man who falls in love with Angel, a beautiful, needing-to-be-rescued, prostitute who has been sex-trafficked since childhood.  He sets out to save her, but in doing so he kidnaps her against her will and marries her when she is in a state of half-consciousness.  He takes her 30 miles outside of the nearest town and holds her against her will until he can convince her of his undying love for her through his ‘being nice’ to her.

This is SO NOT how you help a victim of sex trafficking!!!  Just because you want what is best for someone does not give you permission to be yet another person who takes away their choice with your choice.

She escapes “his love” to go back to prostitution, and he does it AGAIN!  His great love for her busts in on her in the act of prostitution and kidnaps her a SECOND time!  She fights going with him and yet ‘he knows best’ and kidnaps her back to his home.

Here inlays a problem with a multitude of romance stories: the author ‘shows’ you she says ‘no’, but tells you that she secretly wants to be kidnapped.  Do you see how many problems there are with this???  In essence, we are told this woman doesn’t really know what she wants so don’t listen to her.  In today’s language, Michael Hosea is a god-fearing man who would be brought up on charges of stalking and kidnapping.

Michael Hosea does good to show Angel kindness, compassion, and mercy on many different levels.  But do you see, that when this is coupled with loss of independent thought and choice, it becomes dehumanizing.  God always allows us the choice of running to false gods and emptiness.

At one point, Hosea tells Angel ‘you belong to me’ because she is his wife but remember she was half-conscious when he slipped the ring on her finger.  Too many times unhealthy people think of ‘belonging’ as ownership.  They think because ‘you belong to me’ means I can now make decisions for YOU because you are too broken to make decisions for yourself.  In reality, belonging means we bring our true selves into relationship and are accepted right where we are.

Please hear me on this:  The way to help a person who is ‘too broken’ is to listen to them.  Give them their choice back.  Support their decisions which you may see will bring them to more harm but through this they will learn.  They need to choose their own path of healing or choose to continue in pain.

Ultimately, he learns he has to let her go in order for her to actually heal and love him in return.  I won’t spoil the book for you but suffice it to say, Michael Hosea ultimately plays the hero by relinquishing control and letting God be God in her life.

This Is Not Even the Story of Hosea

In reading Hosea, I feel like the author missed the point.  I will admit, maybe I don’t understand Hosea because I think the commentators that I read on Hosea don’t get the point either.   In Hosea 1-3, God calls the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute as a prophetic picture to Israel of what she is doing, playing the harlot.  This is shown as a ridiculous marriage, not as the icon of what a marital love should be.  The majority of Hosea 4-14 is God telling Israel of his anger and the chastisements she will receive because of her wicked ways. He allows Israel to become exhausted with running from Him.  God’s kindness and tenderness is ever present and ready to receive Israel when she is ready but Israel doesn’t experience His kindness and tenderness while living a wanton lifestyle.  It is after she repents that God is always ready to show his redeeming kindness and tenderness.

This story of Michael Hosea dominating and rescuing her from bondage through endless niceness is not the story of Hosea in the Bible.  Hosea is a book of judgement to the corporate people of God.  Applying it to an individual can be problematic.  (Addendum: Does she need to be rescued?  Absolutely!  But this is for the civil magistrate to do and then to prosecute those responsible.  She then needs to find spiritual healing.  THEN she is ready for a romanic relationship.)

God’s kindness and forbearance are involved in leading us to repentance as shown in Romans 2.  But even in that context, God allows us to run to our false gods and reap the consequences (Romans 1) so that we will turn back to Him.

How Romance Novels Set Us Up for False Ideas of Love

In the beginning, Michael Hosea sees Angel walking down the street and God tells him that ‘she’s the one’.  (Are there romance stories where this isn’t the set up?)  What kind of thinking does this set us up for?  Do you wait for God to tell you ‘this is the one’ before you move?  Is there ‘the one’?  Can you lie to yourself to get what you want?  While you can be attracted to someone (and I think you should be attracted to someone you marry), there are SO many other elements that are important to consider before dedicating your life (at first glance) to someone, such as; how do they resolve conflict, what are their life goals, what and how do they spend money, etc.  To set us up that ‘true love’ knows the moment you see them is a recipe for disaster.  It ends up being a constant disappointment because they don’t meet the expectations of what you created in your mind when you glanced at them from across the street.

Here’s a line of disaster, “She marveled at how he was sensitive to her every thought” (page 318).  Guess what, we can NOT read each other’s minds.  Sensitivity is great but to have this as an expectation of romance is catastrophic.  And if you think you can read someone else’s mind because you love them, you are arrogant.

Here’s another line of disaster from Michael to Angel when he has taken her out of the house in the middle of the night to walk through the woods and she is afraid.  “You don’t hear me.  You don’t understand anything. I can’t take you back. You’re not going to have it your way.  It’s got to be my way or not at all” (page 138).  What?  Because he is a God-fearing, good-hearted man, it has to be his way?  Because his love for her is so great he drags her through the woods to see  a romantic sunrise and she doesn’t have a choice in this?  Love does not demand it’s own way and it always allows for choice.  So much WOW here people!!!

OK, one more line of disaster… “Give your pain to me,” Michael said to Angel (page 153).  We like to think that true love can take away someone’s pain to make everything better.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  While we can bear one another’s burdens and it does lesson the load, it is still for the person to walk through into healing.  It takes time and we must feel to heal.

There were a number of problems I have with this Christian romance novel and the way it depicts a good-hearted, God-fearing man as a stalker, controller, and kidnapper because he is overwhelmed with love for her and obeying God.  It is shown in a way that proves his ‘control’ is really love for her.  These mixed messages set us up to completely miss the point of romantic love.

Maybe the book of Hosea isn’t exactly the best book to develop a ‘romance novel’ after since it actually is a book of judgement.  Maybe a better source from Scripture to model a romance after is the Song of Solomon, which is a book that depicts a story of mutual romance and a deepening marriage.

I am told from a reliable source, that there are a few good Christian romance novels out there that show good relational behaviors.  But I think it’s going to be awhile before I take the risk to read another one.

(A second addendum:  I get that men love to be hero’s.  What if our romance stories showed he falls in love with a woman because she is a competent, attractive woman who actually adds her skills and giftings to be able to complete the mission?  Hum…how would that set up the young women of our culture to develop themselves?)

 

 

Love In Any Language

I think as a culture we are measuring our attempts at loving against these 5 Love Languages, instead of against Scripture.

Love In Any LanguageThere is much written on the 5 Love Languages.  I’ve read the book, articles about the book, heard sermons, and it comes up in daily conversations.  The original book written by Gary Chapman was published in 1992 and has sold millions of copies.  The premise is that we all give and receive love differently and that we should aim to love those closest to us in the love language they can receive best.  While there are certainly some good takeaways from this book, I think as a culture we are measuring our attempts at loving against these 5 Love Languages, instead of against Scripture.

First Corinthians 13 is the ‘love chapter’ in Scripture.  So if we are going to measure ourselves it would be a good idea to start there.

 1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

This sounds really important!  I can live my entire life faithfully, flawlessly, sacrificially, and with great talent, but if I don’t have love it means nothing.  So. Much. Wow!  Let that sink in.  That means I could love my spouse with Acts of Service, Gifts, Time, Physical Touch, or Words of Affirmation and if I don’t have LOVE then it’s all for nothing.   If that’s the case, then I want to seek after what it means to actually love…like it’s gold.

 Love is patience

Patience can only be developed in the laboratory of frustration.  This is why we need frustrations in our lives.  When I was a young mother I was a very impatient mother.  I thought I had a great deal of love for my children.  I certainly had a great deal of affection for them.  But I had little patience.  I still remember the day when I read this verse and realized that in all of the moments I was impatient with them I was not loving them.  Over the years I began to see that as I was showing patience I was honoring them.  Patience is the way of love.

love is kind 

Kindness is a desire to do good for another.  The dictionary says kindness is, “a good or benevolent nature or disposition.  Having, showing or proceeding from benevolence.  Indulgent considerate or helpful.”  I think it would also include “without an agenda.”  Love is kind without knowing the return on investment.  Kindness is so powerful that it is love even in the face of opposition.

and is not jealous;

Jealousy is characterized by resentment over another person’s success.  Do I want the success of someone who has taunted me?  Do I want good to the one who has hurt me?  I will sometimes struggle here.  But then I remember that sometimes ‘success’ and ‘goodness’ come in the form of hard knocks, when they come to teach life lessons.  I’ve had a few of my own hard knocks and they have been good to me.  I remember we all have our own stories and someone else’s success is not a part of my good story.

love does not brag and is not arrogant,

There is a difference between bragging and sharing your blessing.  Bragging is taking the credit and one-upping others. It’s about your own greatness.  But walking in humility is about understanding your blessings and giving credit to the One who has given all good gifts.

does not act unbecomingly;

Unbecoming isn’t a word we use much anymore.  It means inappropriate, ill-suited, inapt, incorrect, unacceptable.  Love acts in a way that is considerate of others.

it does not seek its own,

Love does not manipulate others for its own desires.  When I make requests of others, it needs to be clear of all expectation.  They need to be free to say yes or no, without repercussions.  I still believe that I can seek my own desires.  It’s more that I can’t put that on someone else with coercive tactics.

is not provoked, 

Love acts, it does not react.  It does not make a decision based on fear, anger, or grief.  It determines the way of goodness and moves toward it.

does not take into account a wrong suffered

Wounds are deep and painful.  I want to protect my wound so it heals and so that I don’t get hurt again.   But Love steps into truth and moves toward what is right.  Sometimes that means to forgive and forget.  Other times that means we say ‘no more’ for the sake of everyone involved.

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

Lies are death.  Truth honors.  Truth honors my pain, my experience, and my humanity.  It sets me free to be exactly who I was created to be; imperfectly perfect.

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

All things.  After going through this list of what love is and what it is not, it now states Love does ‘all things.’   Love bears in patience and kindness.  It believes in patience and kindness.  It hopes in patience and kindness.  And it endures in patience and kindness.  Do I?

Love never fails;

Never is a very deep promise.  It’s a promise I can stand on.  Remembering that Love doesn’t always change my situation and it doesn’t always change another person.  But when I have loved well, it will never fail to change me.

 

How To Change Your Spouse

We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

How To Change Your SpouseOK…In all honesty, the title is misleading.  The truth is, you can’t make your spouse change.  But I didn’t think you’d open this post if you saw the title as “Changing Your Spouse Is Hopeless.”  That’s not what you want to hear.  But wait…don’t close this post just yet…it get’s better I promise.

A place where relationships often get messy is in the concept of responsibility.  We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

I know of no place in Scripture that it declares that I am responsible FOR any other person.  Even Adam and Eve each were held responsible for their own choices.  It does say in scripture several times “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”, but that’s not saying that the children are responsible for the father’s sins, merely that there is an affect on the children.  Overwhelmingly, Scripture is clear to “one another” each other with love, truth, service, peace, not judging, acceptance, burden bearing, etc.  But the instruction is to ME, not for me to make sure you do it.  As the saying goes, the only person I can change is me.

To focus on changing me requires having healthy boundaries, which is not creating walls or punishments for someone else.  It’s also not putting a rule on your spouse that doesn’t “allow” them to do something.  A healthy boundary is a decision I’m going to make for myself when someone sins against me.

I am only responsible for my thoughts, my opinions, my actions, and my emotions.  But in marriage we sometimes feel responsible for our spouse.  Where our responsibility lies is TO others in caring for and/or providing for them.

In Her Journey, a class helping women in domestic abuse situations, we learn a mantra of “I am responsible for me and you are responsible for you.”  It really is that simple, but oh so hard to live out.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s emotions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to be considerate.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s actions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to act uprightly.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s habits that cause damage.
I am responsible TO my spouse to set healthy boundaries for myself.

I am not responsible FOR someone else breaking promises.
I am responsible TO myself to set healthy boundaries.

I am not responsible FOR my teenager’s demand for the latest thing.
I am responsible TO my teenager to provide necessities.

I am not responsible FOR my 2-year old’s temper tantrum.
I am responsible TO my 2-year old to not provoke him to anger through
 coercion and threatening, but help them with his emotions through 
discipline and instruction.

I am not responsible FOR my friend believing lies.
I am responsible TO my friend to speak the truth.

A husband is not responsible FOR his wife
A wife is not responsible FOR her husband. 
They are each responsible FOR themselves TO one another.

God will not hold us responsible for our spouse’s behavior, but he will hold us responsible for ours (Gal. 6).  And I don’t think it’s going to go too well for you if you point the finger and say, “but she’s (he’s) the one YOU gave me.”

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no.  Stay on your own side of the street.  Be responsible for you.  And THAT changes everything.

FBS: If I’m Not in Control, Something Bad Will Happen

A healthy True Belief System (TBS) to move to is “My needs are my responsibility, your needs are your responsibility.”  

If I'm Not in Control
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

This post is part of a series I am doing on False Belief Systems (FBS).  What we believe matters because it affects how we think, which affects our emotions, which affects our behaviors.

A starting place to understand the FBS “If I’m not in control, something bad will happen” is to acknowledge that it comes from a good heart.  The reality is, you don’t want something bad to happen.  That’s good.

But, the main problem with it is the belief that you can and should control things you were never intended to control.  Some people would say you are “trying to play God”, but even God doesn’t control other people.  He has given us a free will.  So, the truth is, you are trying to create a happy and comfortable reality for yourself and for those you love.

But desiring to create a happy and comfortable reality for yourself isn’t the real problem.  Where it crosses into a problem is when you try to control things that you are not authorized to control, which is mostly other people’s decisions.

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, “but if I let a loved one make this decision (or not make a decision), something bad will happen!”  And with that hypervigilance, fear, panic and eventually exhaustion set in. An accident might happen, divorce might happen, failure might happen, or worse.  And there are actual consequences you may have to live with because of it.

So, if it comes from a good heart, why is this belief system so harmful?  It’s harmful because you take the freedom from others to make their own decisions.  This control fosters resentments, irresponsibility, rebellion, tension, and broken relationships.  You stand back scratching your head thinking, ‘this person (who won’t be controlled by me) has major problems.’  And maybe they do.  But it blinds you from seeing your part and letting go.

A healthy True Belief System (TBS) to move to is “My needs are my responsibility, your needs are your responsibility.”  The importance of letting others be responsible for themselves means they also must bear their own consequences.  This can feel devastating when it’s a loved one who loses a job, ends up homeless, leads to divorce, or ends up in jail (or worse.)  But the freedom you both experience and the health that comes to your relationship is amazing!

The truth is bad things might happen.  However, by attempting to be in control of other people’s decisions you ensure that bad things will happen because you’ve attempted to take away the autonomy of another and that is bondage.  Using fear, obligation, and guilt to control the outcome can be (and usually is) oppression, even when it comes with good intentions.

If (or when) bad things happen, you will need to take care of your responsibilities, and you can let others take care of their responsibilities.  If they don’t (or don’t do it in the way you approve) then it’s on them.

If panic is setting in right now, you have some work to do.  You are not alone as this is a common FBS that I work with people on.  Gather some community around you to help you let go of control and be accountable to them.  You will find freedom and so will those around you.

FBS: Don’t Trust Anyone, Ever

Relationships and experiencing emotion in relationships (even hurt) is an important part of our mental health and well-being. 

FBS_Don't Trust Anyone, Ever
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

False Belief System (FBS): Don’t trust anyone because they will just let you down. 

The problem with this FBS is that people will let you down.  The opposite belief of “trust anyone because they won’t let you down” simply isn’t true.  So how do we think about this wisely and what is a healthy True Belief System (TBS)?

Relationships and experiencing emotion in relationships (even hurt) is an important part of our mental health and well-being.  So, let’s start by looking closer at the FBS.  “Don’t trust anyone” implies ALL people will let you down ALWAYS.  Of course, this simply isn’t true, but your guard is always up so it can feel true.  But ‘all people will let you down occasionally’, probably is true.  And, you will at some point let others down.

“You will just be let down” implies to be let down is bad, horrible, and you must control the relationship to not experience the pain.  My guess, is that when someone does let you down, you go into shut down mode in order to ‘not care’ and turn your emotions off.  Am I right?  It’s normal if you do.  The problem is once you start shutting down your emotions, it leads to shutting down all of your emotions because we can’t select to just turn off some emotions.  This leads to being numb, which leads to depression.

So…if I am right…the healing work that needs to be done is to list out those who have ‘let you down’ in the past, and actually let yourself FEEL the emotion of being let down; cry, get angry, have the regret.  Ask Jesus to come alongside of you to bring comfort, telling him of your emotions.  Share it with a few friends.  And then offer forgiveness.  Not because ‘they didn’t mean it,’ or ‘it was alright’ or ‘it didn’t matter’, but because IT DID MATTER and their actions were actually wrong and they hurt you.  You forgive by trusting the person and the hurt to God and letting God heal it.  To forgive does not mean that you need to trust the person who let you down.  But it also does not mean you can’t trust anyone.

You then trust God with the consequences their actions had on you.  For instance, if you told your best friend in 6th grade a secret and they told it to your class, that wrong needs to be forgiven.  It affected you.  You felt like you couldn’t tell anything about yourself to anyone and never learned to develop deep friendships again.  This affected your marriage because your spouse feels shut out and you ended up divorced.  You need to accept responsibility for your part of the fail marriage, but you also need to forgive your 6th grade friend again for the affect their actions had on you.

So, if “trust everyone because they won’t let you down’ isn’t true, what is a TBS I can go to?  One possibility is to replace the FBS with a TBS of “When people let me down, (because they will…I even let myself down) I can trust God because He is bigger than the disappointment.” God, in His amazing grace, can take any loss and bring good out of it (Genesis 50:20).  That never makes the original offense ‘good’, but we can expect good to come out of hurt when we trust God with it.

Or perhaps the new belief is “To love others well means I will be hurt by them.”  You see…God wants us to be conformed to HIS image.  He uses others to rub away our self-centeredness in order to sculpt us to His image.  If He is trying to help us be forgiving people (because He is a forgiving God) then what do I need in my life to become a forgiving person?  I must have people offend me.  There’s just no other way.

You see, relationship IS in the emotions.  If we deaden ourselves in our emotions so we don’t get hurt, we hurt ourselves because we end up in isolation.   In relationship, you will also experience joy, excitement, interest, a sense of not being alone, etc.  It’s all fine and dandy to sit and have an intellectual talk with someone, but you don’t have a relationship with them in the intellect.  If a person FEELS excitement or connectedness in the intellectual talk they can feel friendship.  But if a person FEELS dissension or disconnectedness in the intellectual talk they can feel like enemies.  So, relationship happens IN emotion.  It’s shared enjoyment in life that brings connectedness.  It’s hurt that brings disconnectedness.  When we shut down all emotion it brings isolation, even when people are present.

It doesn’t mean you trust everyone, but you learn to identify safe people who are willing to forgive you as well.  You will need to know how to process that hurt so you don’t shut down in isolation.  Being willing to experience hurt in relationship is a risk worth taking.

Love & Relationship Addiction

Recovery isn’t about ending a particular romantic relationship.  It is about healing and growth in several areas of our life within relationship.

Love & RelationshipAddiction
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

Love & relationship addiction is identified when a romantic relationship isn’t about love.  It’s about fear of being alone or achieving validation because of a relationship, and it tolerates damaging behaviors without resolution.  As a person addicted to romantic relationships, we may know the relationship is wrong, but we can’t walk away.  The painful cycle includes attraction, bonding, rejection, panic, reconciliation, and the cycle starting over.

Patterns of addiction to “Love” are:

  • Love at first sight
  • Going quickly into the relationship without time to establish common values, goals, or to build trust
  • Neglecting ourselves or loved ones in order to be with this person
  • Feeling isolated and detached from family and friends
  • Feeling overwhelmed by daily living and see their only way to survive is to attach themselves to someone else
  • Mistake intensity for intimacy
  • Romanticizing about the object of affection
  • Attracted to needy people
  • Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at all cost
  • Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship
  • Using others alters mood or relieves pain
  • Highly manipulative and controlling of others, self & circumstances
  • Desperation to have peace in a relationship is defined by a cycle of begging and pleading to win the favor of a partner regardless of previous mistreatment
  • Escalating tolerance for high-risk behavior
  • Partner comes back with demands that the addict changes, but is not looking for a healthy relationship
  • Cycle continues of the partner leaving and the addict panicking

The Cause of Addictive Relationships

The beginning of an addictive relationship often starts in childhood where relationships with parents were absent, abusive, or neglectful.  We seek to heal what has been broken.  As children our emotional needs were not met when we faced rejection and/or abandonment. We came to believe we were not worthy of love.  The cycle continues as we seek validation from a person like the parent we were missing the affection from.  

The Process of Recovery

Recovery from love and relationship addiction is possible. The first step is to admit our need for a healthy change.  Here are some possible steps:

  • Recovery begins with admitting the relationship is addictive
  • It’s necessary to recognize and desire change in ourselves
  • Realize that obsession is not the same thing as love.  
  • Using relationship to prove you have worthiness is a warning sign
  • Understand your emotional triggers.  Being alone can trigger feelings of unworthiness. Believing that you are only worthy in a relationship can also be a trigger.
  • Connect your emotions to your childhood and recognize that your feelings and emotions are valid.  Also realize that they are not an excuse to stay in a destructive cycle.
  • If you feel immediate bonding and a sense of complete dependence in a romantic relationship, pull back as this is a sign your relationship addiction has been triggered.
  • Get a support team to help you seek out healthy relationships.  Possibly consider counseling to help heal childhood issues.

We start the process of recovery and working through the 12 steps to heal and start living the life God has planned for us.  Recovery isn’t about ending a particular romantic relationship.  It is about healing and growth in several areas of our life within relationship.  The foundation is spiritual healing.  Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  It’s also about finding healing physically, socially, mentally, and emotionally.  Romantic relationships have played a domineering and oppressive role in our life.  The goal of recovery is about finding their healthy place in our lives and to build healthy relationships with God, self, and others.  

Celebrate Recovery is a 12-Step Support Group designed to bring healing to all of our hurts, habits, and hangups, including Love and Relationship Addiction.  It can be a great place to begin your recovery today!