I am walking through the woods on a peaceful day and I suddenly see a huge grizzly bear standing on its hind legs looking at me. I am paralyzed with fear. My heart rate accelerates, my mouth feels dry, my muscles tighten, my mind goes blank, my skin gets clammy, and I feel like I just drank 10 Red Bull Energy drinks.
These are all very adaptive fight or flight responses my body produces to protect me from the huge animal. Under this stress response, I will move faster, bleed less if hurt, be fueled by energy hormones, and will be less distracted by irrelevant details going through my mind. The Fight or Flight response is rooted in my instincts as an automatic response to help me survive when my wellbeing is threatened.
What if this survival response got triggered every time I had perform a new social interaction? My body and mind respond to a social interaction with another person as if I am about to be devoured by a grizzly bear. Having the survival response trigger when it is not needed can be exhausting and bring a person’s quality of life to a standstill.
Social anxiety disorder is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to social avoidance as means of coping. Fear of embarrassment or being in situations where you could be scrutin...
This is the final article of a brief series of articles posted earlier addressing the notion described by Dr. David Ferguson as "Blending Four Ingredients for Marital Closeness." As we briefly explore this specific ingredient of "Grateful Giving," it is very important that the foundational work of the previous three ingredients be understood and experienced. I hope you will consider reading them.
More importantly, I hope you will join me in slowing down your life and allowing God to interrupt you with these simple relational principles. The intentionally repetitive work that is necessary for learning and living out compassionate care, trust, and joint accomplishment in marriages and relationships are the cornerstone from which authentic and grateful giving come.
To superficially and/or pretentiously attempt behavior that is incongruent with what you are internally experiencing will lead to frustration, emotional distance, greater conflict, and feelings of futility.
Additionally, it is imperative that you understand that this is not a formula or action steps for conflict-free relationships. In fact, the opposite is true. These ingredients make room in our minds, emotions, and attitudes for experiencing healthy conflict and greater intimacy in your marriage.
When I was a kid, I read a comic book about a criminal foursome exposed to cosmic rays who ended up with super powers. As you may have guessed, the story was part of the Fantastic Four series. One scene in particular stands out; there was a woman whose ability was to convert herself into any gas she chose. Near the end, as their powers are overwhelming and destroying them, her husband is suffocating because his repulse ability is pushing all the oxygen away from him. In a desperate attempt to save him, she converts herself to oxygen, but his power disperses her on the wind like so much vapor. At its worst, this is what a codependent relationship is like.
What is Codependency?
Clinically, codependency is a relationship dynamic where one person subverts himself or herself in service to another, at the expense of their own well-being. A spouse to a substance user who goes out and buys the substance for him or her is codependent. Spouses who make it their job to keep everyone happy in the marriage (or the family) are codependent. Battered spouses who stay in the relationship are codependent, dispersed on the wind like the woman in the story.
There is such a thing as a harmless, or mostly harmless, codependent relationship, but the impact can be insidious long-term. At t...
I was recently speaking at an event for marriage and family therapy students and emerging professionals. It was the kind of event where students could meet others in the field who have gone in a variety of different directions and ask any questions they might have.
Some students asked about the various job opportunities available, some about how to handle the emotional stress. One question directed towards me, though, stood out. As I had been hosting the event, I previously introduced myself multiple times and touched on my own line of work. Besides working at Seattle Christian Counseling, I work in a community mental health setting, working mostly with people with substance abuse issues. The question brought to me inquired about my language, “people with substance abuse issues.”
“I noticed you never said you work with alcoholics or addicts. Why is that? Is there something that’s changing about the language in the field?” the current student asked me.
See, she is currently a chemical dependency professional branching out into the marriage and family therapy field. Her experience has been working with addicts and alcoholics, and that’s how she has always referred to the people with whom she worked.
She asked me about the use of my “person first” langu...
This article on help for sexual addition references the book, Ready to Heal, by Kelly McDaniel.
Love and sex addiction is a double bind. If we seek a relationship, which we are all designed to do, we will experience pain. If we then avoid relationships, which seems logical when we’ve been hurt, we will also experience pain – usually the pain of being isolated. When we are lacking healthy role models in our formative years, we may arrive at adulthood without the tools to navigate pain.
With repeated betrayal in relationships, we may end up with some of these feelings:
- I am not at “ease” or at peace.
- I rarely know a moment of comfort in solitude.
- I have difficulty being alone or still.
- I have disordered eating, sleeping, and/or spending patterns.
- I grow increasingly confused and tired.
- I have difficulty trusting people.
- I become more isolated while pursuing sex or romance.
- I lose interest in friends, hobbies, family, and work.
- I can’t seem to identify or live within my value system.
- I experience more and more episodes of irritability, rage, and restlessness.
Shame sets in when we can’t seem to free ourselves from choosing destructive...
As I continue this series of articles on "Ingredients for Relational Intimacy in Marriage," I once again express my gratitude and deep respect to Dr. David Ferguson, his book, Intimate Encounters and The Great Commandment Ministries team in Cedar Park, Texas.
Marriage Myths & Lies
Healthy marriages require specific ingredients that include intentionality and clear purpose. It is a sad commentary in our Christian and non-Christian marriages that few couples have a common vision for their lives. One doesn't have to look very far to find another fractured and collapsed family.
Sadly, very few individuals have ever stopped long enough to consider what a Godly vision (direction with passion and wisdom) is for their lives. Consequently, marriages perish relationally. In fact, God's Word says, "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild" (Proverbs 29:18).
If we don't have clear direction for our marriages, we are blind to the absolute necessity for relational ingredients that can insure a successful marriage. This leads to the question, "What is stopping us from experiencing 'Joint Accomplishment?'"
I suggest we explore a few marriage myths and lies that cripple relationships and permit toxic relational ingredients to thrive.
If you've clicked through to this article, my guess is that you're either desperate to save your marriage, or trying to find ways to help another couple save theirs. In either case, I pray that the following tips shared here will be a practical help to you, and that God would use this offering, combined with His grace and power, to make a difference for good.
Before we begin, allow me to lay some groundwork. I have been married for 23 years and have worked as a couple’s therapist for the past 19. While I have gained a lot of insight into the psychological dilemmas that couples face through secular study, my worldview about marriage as an institution is shaped through my faith as a Christian.
This article is intended to share helpful tips based on my personal and professional experience that allow couples to have a growing, nourishing marriage that will last for life. As a Christian Counselor, I pick approaches to couple’s therapy that reflect Biblical principles. The tips below reflect a blending of the two that I have seen make all the difference in a couple staying happy long-term in their marriage versus ending up shipwrecked on the shores of divorce and misery.
Practical Tips to Save Your Marriage
Tip #1: Make sure love is more than a feeling<...