• Does anyone ever get over abandonment?
    Does anyone ever get over abandonment?
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    It’s happened to so many little boys: The young man comes home one day. Dad is out on the driveway finishing packing his sports car with all of his worldly possessions. Mom is upstairs crying, trying to reassure the child that everything will be ok — while frantically googling, “Grief counselling Calgary,” and, “Surviving infidelity,” on her phone.


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  • How to win at the game of love.
    How to win at the game of love.
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    “After all these years of marriage, you still don’t know anything about me — do you?? Spend any time at all in the field of couples or marriage counselling and that snarled/shouted comment will, really quickly, become very familiar.

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  • Turning hearts back together again
    Turning hearts back together again
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    From the very moment of our births, we all seek to connect. Within seconds, we utter our first cry – and it’s a cry to be held. Our eyes seem unable to rest until they find the gaze of our parents and our hearts long to know that safe place of gentle, unconditional love.

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  • Protecting children from online erotica/pornography
    Protecting children from online erotica/pornography
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    Nearly every school system in North America is beginning to debate the use of the internet in schools. Wifi has become ubiquitous, LTE connections are in nearly every student’s backpack and the hand wringing and panic over what children are surfing has reached epic levels.

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  • How to fight FOR your marriage.
    How to fight FOR your marriage.
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    Contrary to the delusions of most starry-eyed newlyweds, there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. We’d all like to believe we have married the perfect source of emotional and sexual satisfaction embodied in a person who will grant us the freedom to be ourselves, expect little of us, support us in every way and demonstrate utter maturity and competency in every area of life – that, in addition to exuding stunning physical perfection.

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  • Are you oversharing?
    4 Comments on Are you oversharing?

    Couple counselling communications intimacy

    Sharing. It’s a word we hear in so many contexts. Talk shows are no longer talking at us – we’re, “Sharing the conversation.” Churches are trying to stop laying down rules and invite people to, “Share,” or, “Participate in a discussion.” We don’t even post stuff any more, we, “Share,” on Facebook.

    With all these years of practice, we should all be good at communication and levels of emotional intimacy by now…

    Yet in 2015, for most of us, barely a day goes by without someone, “Sharing,” something utterly cringe-worthy in a highly public setting – who then then wonders why people back away in shock.

    The below is a rather well written cheat sheet from Psychology Today outlining standard steps of self disclosure:

    These 6 tips will help guide you in sharing your feelings:

    1. Your default option should be to keep it light (but not silly). The Utz study shows that people prefer messages that are entertaining. Start with this as your first approach until you feel you can confide more somber reflections, if those are warranted.

    2. Know your audience. Though starting light is a good approach, take the temperature of those you are with before you proceed further.

    3. Don’t be too self-indulgent. Sometimes we say things to make ourselves feel better at the risk of boring or even offending those we are with. You may wish to recite a poem at the beginning of a meeting (because you like it), but your co-workers just want to get on with business.

    4. Stop and think before you speak. People without filters just blurt out their thoughts without reflecting on the effect of those thoughts when they’re turned into words. Take a minute and decide if you really want to share your latest revelations, or if you’d be better off keeping them to yourself.

    5. Pursue deeper relationships by deepening your self-disclosures. In the right circumstances, self-disclosure can be great. Don’t hold back if you truly wish to bond.

    6. Listen to what your conversation partners are saying. The world of communication is based on people both talking and listening. Before you talk, make sure you understand what’s been said by others. If you’re not sure, ask.

    Generally, the sequence of emotional intimacy is as follows:

    (1). Courtesy speech.
    (2). Small talk.
    (3). Thoughts and ideas.
    (4). Dreams and visions.
    (5). Raw emotional intimacy.

    The ability to gauge where you are at on that scale both gives you a picture of which experiment or social risk needs to happen next and a measuring stick to determine if the person we are having the communication with has reciprocated – thus giving us permission to fully to explore the next level with him or her.

    The ability to practice that art form is the difference between building intimacy by way of self disclosure — and verbal/social exhibitionism.

    Should we have to go through this order of fancy-footwork to get real with each other?

    NO!!!

    But, that’s really just the way it is and, we either follow those conventions – or we rarely get to connect at all.

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  • Relationships: Let’s take it for a test drive?
    2 Comments on Relationships: Let’s take it for a test drive?

    Psychology Today

    Cohabitation: Taking a relationship for a test drive?

    Does your partner handle life well? Can you still see a future with her? Do you communicate just as well in the same house? These seem like logical questions that can be answered by living with your potential spouse prior to marriage, but couples who live together before marriage are more prone to marital troubles and divorce. Recent research has sought to determine why.

    Premarital cohabitation has become increasingly common. In the last 20-some years, the number of women aged 19 to 44 who cohabited increased by 82%. One-third of women in 1987 cohabited, compared with three-fifths in 2009-2010, and increases like this are seen for every age group. Just 15 years ago, only about half of women marrying were doing so following a cohabitation experience. Currently among all women 19 to 44, 23% are in cohabiting unions, a percentage doubling that of 20 years ago.

    Much research has suggested that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced or be unhappy in their marriages. However, the findings are somewhat mixed, and researchers are trying to unravel the mystery of the “cohabitation effect,? the increased divorce tendency among those who opt to live together before marriage.

    The above linked article is a really decent summary of the various ideas about why cohabitation generally does not bode well for the future of the relationship. Yet, strangely, the author seems unable to connect the dots to find the answers contained in her own research.

    So, why do marriages preceded by cohabitation test out as weak and prone to divorce?

    Relationships solidify in two separate stages:

    (1). When sex starts:
    Up to that point, the relational dynamics of touch, conversation, time together, love languages etc. are all fluid — as the couple pursues the full consummation of sexual intimacy. Once sex starts, a win has occurred. It worked — and those relational dynamics tend to change only in evolutionary ways after such.

    (2). When you start living under the same roof:
    That’s when the functional dynamics solidify: Shared or separate finances? Temperature of the house? Who does the dishes? Time spent together or apart? How friendships with the opposite sex are handled? Sexual frequency and desires? Generally it takes only a few weeks or months before those elements also solidify.

    When two people move in together but are profoundly uncommitted and focused on keeping their options open, that solidifies as their relational norm. Finally walking down an aisle and exchanging rings doesn’t change a thing.

    And, when real oneness and intimacy doesn’t magically appear along with a wedding cake, things often get ugly really fast…

    This is why the above linked author noted that engaged couples (those where there is a ring, a public announcement, invitations in the mail and uncle Bob already has his flights booked from Germany) who move in together mostly do not show the same negative effects of cohabitation.

    They already were fully intent on creating a relational singularity — and their early move-in also didn’t change a thing. They got the, “We.” They found the relational oneness they were intent on because they spent those first months building it instead of maintaining separateness.

    And, believe it or not, the above understanding is REALLY GOOD news!

    What it’s really saying is that we really do know why marriages preceded by cohabitation test out as weak or prone to divorce and that we know what can be done about it.

    Yes, it’s often difficult for couples to make this transition on their own. But, when a couple takes the time to sit down with us for (pre)marriage counselling and risks unpacking the separateness that cohabitation created, we can very easily help them renegotiate the collective agreement of marriage they bargained and replace it with the oneness they really desire.

    The earlier in the relationship/marriage a couple reaches out for that help, the easier and (Yes, really!) more fun making those transitions can be!

    If this is you, will you reach out before it’s too late?

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  • The purity culture gets married — kinda…
    4 Comments on The purity culture gets married — kinda…

    Relevant

    We weren’t haunted by the ghosts of prior sexual experiences or battling with regrets. We desired to be together free and unashamed, but we were plagued by our inability to stop feeling guilty about fulfilling sexual desires we had trained ourselves to view as wrong and dangerous. While we intellectually believed that sex was a good thing that was intended for enjoyment in marriage, we had spent years conditioning ourselves to respond to sexual feelings with fear, guilt and shame.



    In the space of a few hours, something we had treated as forbidden, dangerous and private became something we were meant to enjoy and celebrate with each other. No amount of intellectual knowledge could take those deeply ingrained feelings towards our sexuality and magically change them the moment we slipped on those rings or later when we slipped off our wedding clothes. It isn’t really strange that this transition didn’t happen instantaneously, what was stranger was that we expected it to.



    We aren’t the only couple who has experienced this. When I first started writing about this topic, I received messages from hundreds of people who said, “Me, too! I followed all the rules and no one told me this could happen. What can we do about it??



    There is no magic formula for overcoming feelings of guilt and shame in your sexual relationship. This is not a checklist to follow that will guarantee the results you want. People are complex and every marriage is unique. But these are some principles that helped in my personal situation and I hope they can be encouraging to you.

    The tag line of the above linked is, “Even those who save sex for marriage have to deal with feelings of guilt.” (Frankly, it’s only worth reading as an example of how to completely miss the point…)

    The article starts with that thought — and then proceeds to lay out a series of steps to finally overcome purity-culture-imbedded shame in a married sex life via pearls of wisdom focused around identifying and talking about lies, reciting Scripture and spending years trying to finally have enough positive sex to block out the voices from your past.

    They won’t work — our offices are filled with people who already tried that formula… The majority of them are close to or are now agnostic or even atheist…

    It’s not fixing the real problem.

    This article is not hosted by some Fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church — it’s on Relevant Mag. This is now mainstream Evangelical thought and what’s most stunning about the article is really what it doesn’t ask.

    While the author does close with a vague wish:

    I wish I had been taught to honor marital sex without being ashamed of my sexuality. I wish I had understood that my sexuality had value outside of my virginity.

    Nowhere in it is present the intellectual ability to ask, “Is this tsunami of guilt, shame and fear really the message of the Gospel?” “Can you possibly fix that level of condemnation for a full third of person-hood by just adding a few affirmations about sexuality she already knew anyway?” “Is something that rarely worked at preventing premarital sex and now is so widely destroying marital sex is really the right path to be on in first place?”

    Weirdly, the author is clinging on — at least for now. But, she’s a complete outlier and it is going to end.

    This is not minor damage. Sexuality is the core of a person. Once a person has come out of a culture that simultaneously floods him or her with judgment for having a sexuality while reducing his or her value as a sexual being down to a one-time-use commodity (which s/he better choose to spend well or risk never being able to purchase a worthwhile partner with such), the wounding is so deep the cheap band-aids offered by that culture don’t have a prayer of ever working.

    Either that person grasps what grace, freedom and conversational intimacy with God looks like and walks free of the unholy trinity of guilt/shame/fear itself — or the pain will continue. Usually, at an intolerable level.

    At that point, the person either leaves Christianity entirely and stops inflicting this on the next generation, or they find real grace and freedom, leave fundamentalism and also cease from inflicting this on the next generation.

    Either way, this is going to end.

    The only question is, will Christianity survive it?

    Us few Christian therapists out there trying to walk those couples into grace, freedom and being led through life via conversational intimacy with God are completely out-numbered by an army of secular therapists who, quite rightly, see religion/Christianity as toxic spiritual abuse — and are walking the victims of these lies out of it entirely…

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  • Do you demand, or withdraw?
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    Psychology Today

    My last (failed) relationship, it turns out, is a psychological cliché, which is disheartening but at least it gives me plenty of company. If you’d peeked through my windows, you would have seen me—imploring with tears in my eyes or angry with my voice raised—demanding that we address the problems we were having. You’d also have seen my partner, his arms folded across his chest, silent and unresponsive, a dismissive look on his face.



    In its own unhappy-making way, this pattern of interaction is as classic as a Little Black Dress, and it has a moniker and an acronym: Demand/Withdraw or DM/W. It isn’t a new pattern, of course—the so-called “nagging? wife shows up in folklore all over the world, in many varied (and misogynistic) forms—but research shows that DM/W is a powerful predictor of marital dissatisfaction and divorce. It’s also associated with depression, physical abuse, and the mental health symptoms of young adult children, according to a meta-analysis review conducted by Paul Schrodt and his co-authors. Of all the troubling relational patterns, Demand/Withdraw is truly worthy of HazMat status.



    Some individuals are far more likely to find themselves in this kind of conflict than others. It’s not a familiar pattern in a healthy relationship, but common in one that’s already distressed. It seems to be separate from other negative behaviors, such as screaming and yelling, although it often appears with them. There’s evidence that it’s more common if a spouse is depressed. As a pattern, DM/W seems to have a gender bias: most of the research shows that the Demand role tends to be played by women, the Withdraw by men. (The shorthand for this in marital studies is WD/HW, or wife demand/husband withdraw—as opposed to HD/WW, or husband demand/wife withdraw.) Theorists have proposed that the differences in how women and men are socialized may account for the skew—in this scenario, women seek out affiliation, are more expressive, and fear abandonment while men are more autonomous and afraid of engulfment in relationships.

    The above linked article, to put it mildly, is terrible. The only thing it has going for it is a good example of the problem — and nothing else.

    But, that’s useful — the rest of what is needed is how to fix it.

    The DM/W pattern is founded in two key belief systems:

    (1). My way and myself matters more then the relationship and I demand you submit to such.

    (2). The only way I will be able to get my needs (Demands?) met is via shame, fear or guilt based control.

    Stopping it starts with sacrifice and selflessness. It’s saying that I care more about this relationship then I do about myself and, thus, I am willing to abandon my demands for it.

    It then continues with a commitment to identify and stop the pattern when it is happening — coupled with an equal commitment to changing the structure of the relationship itself.

    That requires addressing things when they first appear, really listening to your spouse, talking clearly but gently and kindly through issues and learning how to practice gratefulness, appreciation and affirmation on a constant basis.

    The DM/W pattern is usually birthed in the silence of the demand based spouse that lasts until the tension is finally released in an explosion. Learning really early conflict engagement is usually essential to fixing this problem.

    For some couples, there is also the belief that talking about things will only make them worse. If that is the case, then a key indicator just lit up on your marital dashboard that says, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time to get help and learn some radically different conflict resolution skills.

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