Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Just Have a Little Apathy, But So What..


 

By Matt Sandford, LMHC

Okay, so I spend some of my free time playing Halo or Facebooking. So what!? Okay, maybe it’s a little more than that. Okay, maybe it’s a minor obsession; get off my back! I’m just having fun and blowing off steam. Because my life is really stressful. I have to figure out where I’m going in life. At least, that’s what I’m told. I think. (I tuned it out awhile ago, but I think they’re still droning on about it.)

Apathy in the young crowd today is as common as cheap sex, as common as credit card debt, as common as short shorts and too big pants, as common as whatever fad is popular at the moment. Although I am not suggesting that apathy is a fad. Yeah, maybe we could chalk it up to being a normal adolescence phase. But I’m guessing that many of you are finding that that doesn’t sit well for you. Particularly because that phase is lasting longer and seeming to be more pronounced that if it were simply a “phase”. 

And if you are a parent of a late teen or young adult struggling with this or if you are that teen or young adult, then you may be frustrated. Let’s face it, apathy is a problem. Well, if you’re in it yourself you may or may not think it’s a problem. But it probably presents problems in the form of parents bugging you about it. Let’s take a look at the nature of the problem and then I’ll offer some approaches to dealing with it.

What’s Going On?

I certainly won’t claim that I can succinctly and completely explain all of the workings and nuances of current apathy in our culture. But I will make some suggestions. I will break it up into a couple of groupings, or types of issues.

1.       Loaded or Overloaded

In Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something, which is about discerning God’s will, he says that for most young folks there are so many more options than there were a couple generations ago; too many choices presented. What do you usually do when you are bombarded with more choices than you can take in? Maybe we back up and slow things down? Maybe we run? Maybe we just randomly pick one? Or maybe we freeze? What if one element at least has to do with this sense of being overwhelmed by all the options, decisions, choices, and possible directions. And then on top of that, I am wondering if there is a sense in our culture today that the consequences are so much more dire as well. That that young person is feeling that they only have one shot at getting it right – that is, finding the path that will make money, make a difference, do something they are good at, enjoy and brings lasting satisfaction. Oh and make my parents proud (or get off my back, or stop worrying about me). That is a lot of pressure. Sometimes we conclude that if we can’t make the grade, we won’t bother to show up for the tryout.

 

2.       Limited

Now let’s go the other way. What if, among all the myriad of choices that are out there presently, that you believe your options are limited by your situation. Maybe you don’t think you are smart enough, or good looking enough, or skinny enough, or popular enough, or talented enough, or positioned to get onto the track that you long to get on. From your perspective you’ve been dealt a crappy hand and there’s nothing you can do about it. So why try?

 

3.       Loss

Here’s another category. What if something has come along and hindered your path? Maybe you were on the right track and things were going well. But then something happened. A loss of some kind. A disappointment. Maybe your family went through divorce, or someone who believed in you, like a grandparent, died? Maybe you experienced rejection from someone close to you, like a boy or girl friend or a sibling? Maybe you tried out for something and didn’t make it? Maybe it was a personal failing or weakness of yours? Maybe you got caught and experienced humiliation? Or it could have been something traumatic or something evil, like abuse? But something took the air out of your sails and now you’re just drifting. Motivation is long gone.

 

What is apathy really, other than a loss or lack of hope? Hope produces motivation, hope keeps dreams alive or awakens us to new dreams, hope wakes us up in the morning and hope keeps us going when it’s hard and the road is long.  But when you are overwhelmed with pressure, or you feel boxed in by your situation, or have lost something or been victimized, hope can seem more like a taunt from those more fortunate or maybe from a God who doesn’t seem to care.

When hope has been lost, what really matters? Exactly. Not much. Achievement, striving, virtue, long term goals, even love. They all seem, well, a lot of bother. But fun – now that’s something you can wake up for. Why? Because it distracts me from the weight of dragging myself around through a life that is devoid of hope, and offers me a reprieve in the now. And without hope all I can live for is the present moment. There are those who talk about a way of experiencing life in which one embraces the moment and how this is a mark of maturity. But, that is sadly not what this type of living for the moment is. Because this type is more running from the future and often the past and so the person of apathy does not live in the moment in freedom – but rather through avoidance.

I believe the key to overcoming apathy does not lie in simply finding something to get excited about, although developing new goals can revive some hope in us. Overcoming apathy is more about understanding the source of one’s apathy and choosing not to run away from those emotions, thoughts and beliefs that got us there. You see, working through the negative emotions of anger, sadness, disappointment, regret, resentment, or to sum these up – grief and loss – is the way to free our hearts to hope again. This can be a painful process. But don’t run from it.

This would be a new kind of hope different from what you may have experienced before. Maybe before your hope was built on rosy circumstances, or your talents, or your socio-economic background, or your intellect, or your experience? See the trend there? Your, your, your. Hope placed in ourselves – when overrun can be devastating and drain the life out of us. And, it can help us to find hope in something more secure and more worthy.

Dig deep and allow your apathy to direct you to the fountain of hope and water that truly satisfies. And I’m not really getting preachy about coming to Jesus here. Not in the getting saved sense. I guess this is more a getting saved from your apathy sense. I think a lot of folks who have Jesus haven’t quite figured out how he saves from loss and apathy and aimlessness and lack of desire.

But I think that was what he meant in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a Jesus who fills our happy cup and came to help us fulfill all of our desires. Hardly! Jesus came to remake us and to get into us true desires that bring true fulfillment. Because he knows what would be fulfilling better than we do!

There is no better place to go when you need to grieve than to the guy who knew how to suffer better than anyone. He really does want to lift our apathy – by giving us the hope that we need.

 




Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit
www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Careers: What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?


 


By Laura Hull,  MA, LMFT

 

“What am I going to be when I grow up?”   Remember asking that question when we were children?  From the time we were old enough to realize that one day we would have jobs and go to work for real, we pondered the possibilities of what we would one day be.  Maybe we dreamed about being a doctor or a fireman…maybe a rock star.  Maybe we dreamed even bigger.  But for a long time, any thoughts we had about what we wanted for a career were just that, thoughts and dreams.  However, by the time high school was over, real grown up decisions must be made about how to chart a course for our adult lives. Some choose to further their education in college or a trade school, while others join the working force in some capacity. 

 

By the time I was halfway through my undergrad program, I came to the terrible realization that I had made a horrible mistake in what I had chosen to major in.  I also realized that my plan B & C were not stellar, either.  What a shame it is that we must try to decide what we want to do as a career for the rest of our lives before the tender age of 20.  I remember what an overwhelming, if not depressing feeling it was to realize that I no longer wanted to be what I had spent years prepping for and studying to be.  Thank goodness for a chance encounter with a random psychology class at the beginning of my senior year (the only one that fit into my schedule that semester), which changed everything about what my professional life would later become.  In my case, thank goodness for graduate school!

 

Before that exposure to that psychology class, I felt totally stuck.  I had invested years in working towards a degree in a totally different field.  I could not justify walking away from those plans when I had no idea what I wanted to do.  The only thing I knew for sure was that a career in journalism would have made me miserable.  I was burned out and I hadn’t even really gotten started yet.  So many people find themselves stuck in careers in which they are burned out and no longer happy.  But fear of the unknown and the pressure of the time already invested causes many people to stay in careers which are either stagnant or make them miserable.   Is it wise to try to make a career change later in life?  It depends on individual circumstances.  It is certainly easier to make a major life change before mortgages, children, and the other responsibilities/obligations that life inevitably brings as we age.  However, it is never too late to make a positive change.

 

There are many great truths in this life.  One great truth is that we ultimately find a way to do the things we want to do in this life.  Think about it.  If something means enough to us, we USUALLY find a way to make it happen.  It sounds so cliché to say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” but it is true.  Another great truth is that life is short.  Life is too short to spend years grinding away at something that either is not working for us or something that’s making us miserable.   If we want to make a change badly enough, we can find a way to make it happen.  This may mean returning to school at age 50.  This may mean taking a pay cut in order to start an entry-level job in a new field.  Change is scary, but it can also be wonderful to be moving in a new direction, when the old direction was not taking us where we wanted to go.

 

So many of us have our identities wrapped up in our careers.  We look at ourselves and define ourselves as successful or not based on how we perform in our careers.  I would challenge everyone who falls into this trap to re-evaluate his/her priorities.   While careers are important, they are not nearly as important as the strength and health of our relationship with our families and our heavenly father.  When we have our priorities in the right order, the pressures that come from our careers and other outside forces do not have the negative impact that it could if our priorities are out of line.  We brought nothing into this world, and we will leave with nothing.  Jobs/companies will replace us 10 minutes after we are gone.  Careers matter but they are not everything or even the most important thing…not by a long shot.  It would be better to make $10 per hour working retail and die happy, than to make $100K or more per year, having spent decades in a career that brings stress and misery.   Think about it.

 

Do not be fearful of making a career change.  But be realistic.  Take an honest evaluation of where you are at and where you want to be.  Is the career path you are on making you happy?  Is it taking your life in the direction that you ultimately want to go?  What are the potential consequences of making a change?  What are the most likely consequences if you stay on the path you are already on?  What am I willing to do or give up in order to make a major life change at this point in my life?  What will my game plan have to include in order to make this dream a reality?   When we can answer those questions, it will lead us to the decision that is “most right” for us.  We all must answer these questions at some point in our lives, whether as a 20 year old college student or as a middle age parent of teenagers or older.  Choose wisely.

 

 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Do You Have the Career Change Blues? Don't be Dismayed!



By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

An unsatisfying career can be a real downer leading to wanting to do something different in life. A career change can be a daunting task and taking into account the many factors as to why a change is needed can seem overwhelming at times. Forbes Magazine reported that Right Management conducted a one month survey from April to May in 2012 on job satisfaction. Only 19% of the 411 respondents reported job satisfaction. Wow, 79% do not like their jobs.

Let’s throw in some more factors. A sluggish economy creates a power shift that in some ways can leave a dissatisfied employee feeling stuck in a job they don’t like. Poor cash flow equals no raises or promotions and some companies have resorted to some extreme measures that if a person is so much as 5 minutes late to work they be fired. This begins to create more of a survival mentality of endurance than a real career challenge. The thinking gets changed from “what can I do next to further my career” to “what else is realistically possible that I can do, I hope I don’t lose my job.”

Feeling stuck, tired, beat up, worn out, used and no advancement or feeling like there is any place to go can begin to feel depressing, or like a case of the blues. The truth is there are some things a person can do to change their situation. It does not have to be hopeless, in fact, turning things around and taking control of a career can be empowering. This is about turning things around and taking control of the career and being the one in control as opposed to being controlled.

If you find yourself in a job or career and do not like it then it might be time to make a plan. In the book Stephen Covey’s 7 Principles of Highly Effective People, it’s time to put first things first and begin with the end in mind.  Ask this question, “Where am I going and what is it going to take to get there?” In many ways this is like taking a journey. It requires some brainstorming to find out what resources are required. Some trips take longer than others and this is where the planning becomes useful, it becomes like a personal guide to help stay on track, to not lose the path. Create small goals leading to larger goals and celebrate them along the way. Have some rewards in place as part of the planning as this helps create encouragement instead of trudging forward in what can seem like a daunting task.

One final note, be flexible. Allow for changes as unforeseen conditions can throw plans off track and at times create uncertainty. The advantage of being the one who is driving the career change is the planning can be changed at any time to meet current needs. The idea is to keep moving even at times when it seems impossible. There is a difference between struggle and quitting. Quitting is permanent, struggle means a person is still striving for the goal. Be flexible, allow for change along the path, keep an eye on the prize, and if the final goal changes along the way, that is okay too. Sometimes taking a journey can somehow bring about clarity in life about what is really important. 

About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping to empower people and overcoming difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Date Night Under the Influence of Marriage



By Brian Murray and Christine Hammond

Sitting on the couch at home on a Friday night watching television when a jewelry commercial offering a Valentine’s Day special appears.

Her.  I bet that even with this commercial he still will “forget” about Valentine’s Day.  I should know better than to expect anything from him because I just wind up getting my feelings hurt and disappointed.  Look at him, he’s not even making any signs that this ad is even on.  Boy do I love that necklace, not that he would get it for me.  Maybe I just have to buy it for myself.  “Would you like more chips dear?”

Him.  Wow here we go again, another season of having to put up with these manipulators.  “Can you believe these people, every year they play on emotional heart strings.  What a crock!”

Her.  I knew it.  He’s so complete devoid of any emotion that it just tears me apart.  It’s not really about emotional heart strings like he says; it’s really about the money.  He just doesn’t want to part with his money and that’s why he says that junk.  Look at him eating that chip with salsa dripping on his shirt, what a slob!  I can’t believe I married this.  “Oh what a nice necklace but it probably cost too much.”

Him.  How disgusting, I can’t believe how she is getting sucked in by these gravy sucking pigs.  “Look at these guys, they double the price and then tell you it’s half off.”

Her.  How the heck would he know if it’s half off, it’s not like he’s ever put one foot into a jewelry store.  He even bought our wedding rings from a friend and my engagement ring on-line.  So what does he know about the cost of jewelry.  Oh well, it’s not as if I will ever get it so I just have to let it go but it would be nice if he would actually take me out on Valentine’s Day.  “Honey, I would be happy if we could just go out for dinner on Valentine’s.”

Him.  I hate it when she does this.  She always makes it all about her.  “Gee for once why can’t we go fishing instead of waiting three hours for a table?”

Her.  Fishing, are you kidding!  The only fresh fish I want to see on Valentine’s is sushi.  I can just hear the comments now.  “So where did you go for Valentine’s?”  “We went fishing, like all the other hicks.”  No thank you, I’d rather be dead.  I bet he’s just saying that cause he knows how much I hate fishing and won’t want to go so he throws this out to get me to back down from the dinner thing.  Not playing.  “I’d rather go out and have fish served instead of catching our own.”

Him. Ha, she doesn’t know what she is missing, this whole Valentine thing is nothing more than a scam by women to force men to take them out and spend money. Okay, well, you figure out what you really want you let me know, fish or jewelry.”

 

 Where is this going? Often in a marriage there are two perspectives in a situation and coming to an understanding of the other person’s point of view can be a challenging process especially when what is thought is often not what is said.  It’s kind of like shooting at a moving target, just when you think have your aim, the target moves.  Let’s explore how each spouse could have better handled the situation before, during and after.

Before.  Instead of ambushing your spouse on the spot about something you really want to do, mention to your spouse in advance and make a plan so that it is not an impulsive idea. Continue with gentle reminders about the event, and in this case a date night. Make sure that both of you are in agreement of how the date is going to transpire. Accurate communication can reduce anxious moments such as this.  

During.  Pay attention to how your spouse reacts to your comments with non-verbal body language.  If they are stressed by your comments, agree to table the discussion for another time when tempers are not so likely to flare up.  When you know that there is a special occasion that the other spouse will likely want to participate in, be proactive and involved instead of letting one spouse make all of the decisions.  When you feel out of control or that you are being controlled by others, strong intense feelings of anxiety are likely to occur. 

After.  Special calendar events can create unnecessary stress with last minute plans and agendas. Do not wait for date night to start on the premise of a special occasion and instead integrate it as part of the marriage lifestyle. Create a plan for one night a week, two times a month or other times, for example, every first and third Friday of the month is date night. This represents communication between the married couple. It also helps to be creative and mix it up with various activities to avoid boredom or becoming a static situation doing the same thing over and over again. Be creative, make it fun and set aside some time to date your mate.

 

ADHD Medication Not Working for Your Teen? It May be a Sleep Disorder


 
By Chris Hammond

It is yet another counseling appointment for Sam who is 13 years old and is struggling in school, home, and everywhere he goes.  He has been diagnosed with ADHD and depression in the past but all of the medications have failed to work and his is getting worse, not better.  He is a bright boy who can do well at school but he frequently falls asleep while doing homework saying that it is too boring.  Socially he struggles with his peers as he seems disconnected, detached, and distracted.  You are beyond frustrated, having tried numerous therapies and medications convinced that something is wrong but unable to identify it.  Finally you begin to believe that he is just lazy.

While laziness may play a factor in Sam’s teenage brain, there might be something else.  Frequently, lack of proper sleep can have waking symptoms of ADHD or even depression.  Without proper REM sleep, a still growing teenager will struggle to stay awake during the day, seem distracted, forgetful, moody, prone to anger, unable to focus for long periods of time, and sleep excessively.  A teenager should get approximately 9 hours of sleep with an additional hour of sleep if going through a growth spurt.  If you are concerned that your child may have a sleep disorder instead of ADHD or depression, ask your doctor to order a sleep study.  This is the best way to diagnose sleep disorders. 

Narcolepsy.  The movie version of narcolepsy has a person walking in a mall and suddenly dropping to the floor and going to sleep.  This is not entirely accurate as there are many forms of narcolepsy all ranging from mild to severe.  In a teenager, narcolepsy looks like falling asleep while in class, doing homework, watching TV, or reading.  The teen may also be talking to you one minute, look away, seem to be somewhere else for a second and then return back to the conversation claiming an inability to follow the conversation.  This is likely to cause problems at school and home as it may seem disrespectful to you.  The good news is that once it is diagnosed, proper medication can mitigate the symptoms as well as a strict sleep schedule including a nap.

Sleep Apnea.  During the night, a person with sleep apnea is suddenly startled in the middle of a deep sleep because breathing has stopped.  This can happen many times during the course of the night leaving the waking person to feel exhausted in the morning.  In a teenager, falling asleep during class, jerking while asleep, and snoring are all commons symptoms.  The treatment varies for teens but common practices are to remove the tonsils and adenoids for relief of the symptoms.

Insomnia.  Having difficulty falling asleep at night, staying asleep or not feeling rested could be chronic insomnia.  Without regular sleep a teen seems distracted, depressed, struggles to concentrate at school, is moody, clumsy, and irritable.  Again, early diagnosis is the key as there are many medications which can be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of insomnia.  In addition, a regular sleep schedule is essential to condition your body when to rest and when to remain awake.

While there are more sleep disorders, these are the ones most commonly seen in teens.  Still there are other medical conditions that could be contributing to sleep problems such as Restless Leg Syndrome so it is important to speak with your doctor to rule out any other contributing factors.  However, the most important element in teaching your teen about good sleep patterns is by modeling them yourself.  Develop a relaxing nighttime routine such as reading, yoga, a bath, or a cup of chamomile tea to release the day’s stressors and allow your body to naturally relax.  In addition, do your best to go to bed at the same time every night waking up approximately 7 hours later around the same time every morning.  This routine will not only improve your sleep habits but can aid in weight loss, reduce anxiety, depression and stress all of which can be beneficial for you and your teen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Addiction: Filling a Hole in the Heart

 
By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH


Psalm 27:7-9 (MSG)
 
Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” Don’t hide from me now!
Addiction: Whether drugs, money, alcohol, sex, gambling or whatever the choice of chemical or behavior often have more to do with the heart more than anything else. This is not the actual physical condition of the heart but about the core condition of a person’s being. The heart seeks something to fill, something that is missing inside, the emptiness; repeatedly it searches and never finds what it’s looking for. Addiction never satisfies. The rock band U2 sings about this longing emptiness that the heart seeks in their song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”  This void in the heart is something only God can fill.

It isn’t unusual for the band U2 to sing about addiction. The lead singer Bono lost a good friend many years ago who was addicted to heroin and overdosed of which is the basis for their hit song “Bad.” The song by U2 “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” seems to suggest that the heart continues to seek for something that is missing within a person. The storyline is metaphorically about a person who is searching for something but all of this searching does not satisfy what it missing inside. Much of this has to do with seeking God and in the lyrics U2 mentions Christ and the carrying of the cross and how it takes all of the shame. It seems reminiscent of the great Gospel song “Amazing Grace” of being once lost but now found.  

In addictions one thing that is apparent is a consistency of absence in a person’s life. What is missing is the presence of God by completely surrendering of the heart over to Him. U2 does a great job reflecting the condition of the heart which is like a form of greed, taking in all of this stuff but left with the feeling that it’s not enough, the heart still desires, it wants more. It is not getting what it truly needs and is being supplemented by false idols. The false idol is addiction which creates a temporary love affair, then the lover goes away after it wears off, the heart feels lost love and goes after it and the cycle repeats itself over and over.  The difference is God doesn’t leave and is always there. He fulfills what the heart seeks and becomes a permanent resident.

Addiction never satisfies and that is why it is needed over and over again. The next hit, the next throw of the dice, just one more girl and then the feeling of being satisfied will happen. The heart craves for the truth, “I need more, and it wasn’t enough, that wasn’t the fix that did the trick.” The question remains, what is the heart seeking that is not fulfilling it? Seeking God is one thing, surrendering the heart to Him and trading all of those sorrows, guilt and shame for the love of Christ is something different entirely.


About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group.
Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2013), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Trust


Trust (Part 1)

By Laura Hull

 

Trust.  It’s such a small word that holds so much power.  The foundation of every meaningful relationship in our lives is greatly determined by our ability to trust someone else.  Please note the very intentional point I made of every meaningful relationship in our lives is built on a foundation of trust.  We certainly have relationships in our lives that are not contingent on trust.  I have a relationship with my bank.  I may trust my bank enough to deposit my money every week, but I still check my balance frequently because I do not completely trust that they will not make a mistake with my account.  We don’t necessarily trust those that we work with/around, but it’s helpful if we do (and in my case, I do!).  However, without trust, those kinds of relationships never develop into anything that adds something positive to our lives.

 

Some people have an easy time trusting others, while others struggle greatly.  Our ability to trust is largely determined by the experiences of our young years.  If we grow up seeing the world and those around us as being trustworthy (consistent, truthful, honoring commitments, respecting boundaries), we have an easier time trusting others. However, if our life experiences show us that those around us, those close to us in particular, are inconsistent and untruthful, frequently breaking promises or breaching boundaries, then it greatly inhibits our ability to trust others.  The inability to trust has the potential for a very negative impact in many, if not all, areas of our lives.  This is the first in a series of articles I am writing about trust, and the impact it has on our lives when trust is broken.

 

When I made the decision to pursue graduate studies many years ago, it did not take me long to decide my focus would be on marriage and family therapy.  I have always been fascinated by family dynamics.  It’s a spider web of sorts; every significant movement of every member of the family impacts every other member of the family in some way.  In families where both parents are present, that relationship is the center of the web, with the strength of that relationship greatly impacting the family as a whole.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it is not possible to have a healthy family environment if the marital partnership is in trouble.  Due to the intimacy and demands of the marriage relationship, a deep and unwavering trust in each other is necessary in order for the marriage to be happy and healthy.  So what happens to the marriage structure when the support beam of trust is breached?  The foundation of the marriage and the family unit begins to shake.  REAL trust is something that takes a long time to establish in a meaningful relationship.  It’s amazing how something that can take a long time to create can be demolished in such a small amount of time.  One bad choice or foolish decision can destroy the trust it can take so long to establish.  As a therapist, I can testify to the fact that it’s ALWAYS a sad thing to witness.  Nothing blows a hole into a marriage like when trust is lost through infidelity.

 

Adultery is a major problem in marriages in our society. If the statistics are to be believed, somewhere between 30-60% of married individuals will cheat on their spouses at some point in the marriage.  If we consider the low end of that statistical spread, 30% of people will cheat.  Maybe it’s 10-20%.  But think about that.  Even if 10-20% (and it’s probably higher) of individuals cheat at some point in their marriages, that’s a staggering number of people who breach the trust of their spouses in a most grievous way.  And for those that feel a certain protection from those statistics because we are under the Christian umbrella, those percentages hold true for believers and non-believers, across all socio-economic lines.  It’s a problem, folks.

 

When couples come to me for counseling to try to work through the discovery or revelation of infidelity, often times the emotions of the couple are intense, with the wounded party vacillating between intense anger and despair.   There’s a desperate need on one or both sides to understand “why this happened”.  In the case of a one-night stand, the motives behind the incident are often impulsive, maybe involving alcohol, and often with little or no forethought.  An affair is a different animal.  Affairs, most often, are far more damaging than a one-time lapse in judgment.  Affairs involve habitual lying, habitual betrayal. Often there are emotional bonds formed in affairs that are not easily broken merely by the discovery of the affair by the betrayed spouse.  There’s a ripple effect from adultery that tears at the fabric of the family, and often strains relationships outside the family, such as with close friends, who struggle to deal with the disappointment of the actions of their friend, or even co-workers if the affair was in the workplace, potentially changing the dynamics of the workplace.  Depending on how the situation is handled and the emotional state of the parties involved, the effects on the children can be profound. 

 

With the fallout from adultery often being so profound, it can be hard to understand why someone would risk so much pain and heartache for the physical thrills of an affair. This is a very complex issue.  There is no clear-cut answer, because each situation is so unique to the individuals and personalities involved.  There are some common threads we see in counseling, things that are often identified:  “midlife crisis”, “I was bored in my marriage”, “my spouse does not value me”, “I am not happy with/or ‘in love’ with my spouse anymore”, “married sex is not exciting anymore”.  The list of excuses is as long as the number of pages I could choose to write.  Through counseling, it is often revealed that there have long been communication problems in the marriage, or one spouse is having self-esteem issues.  Sometimes the spouse feels that both the physical and emotional needs are no longer being met in the marriage.  Some are thrill seekers, and love the danger involved, of potentially getting caught.  These would not be the majority.  More often than not, people who find themselves in the middle of an affair never imagined it would ever happen to them.  But it does happen.  It happens to good people, too.  It happens to people who do not guard against it.  It’s imperative that we guard against it.  Anyone who blindly walks through married life thinking “this could never happen to me,” or “I would never do that,” without affair-proofing his/her marriage is taking a chance. 

 

In truth, there is no way to 100% affair-proof a marriage.  However, there are things that can be done to greatly reduce the risk of an affair.

 

  • Firstly, it is imperative that the lines of real, meaningful communication remain open.  Honesty is everything. Never lie.  Always remember that the consequences of a painful truth are more tolerable than the pain of a discovered lie.  Also, it is not sufficient to remain on “auto-pilot” for long periods of time.  Conversations involving more than “how was your day?” and “who’s taking the kids to soccer practice?” need to happen often. 

 

  • Time must be given to the relationship. MAKE TIME.  Date nights are important, plugging back into the activities and feelings that brought us to the doorstep of marriage to begin with keeps the relationship fresh and, dare I say, fun!  

 

  • Maintain healthy, well-defined boundaries with members of the opposite sex.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  A wise person does not put himself/herself in a position where intent can be questionable.  With most of us working outside the home, we inevitably interact frequently with members of the opposite sex.  Oftentimes, we form friendships with these individuals.  But there must be boundaries in place, which will inhibit these relationships from crossing any emotional or physical lines.  Is it wrong for members of the opposite sex to go out to lunch together?  No, not necessarily.  But is it happening every day?   Is it a problem to go to an after work beer party without the spouse being present?  Maybe. Maybe not (depending on individual perspective).  But it is not wise. The potential problem in these scenarios lies in the fact that it puts us in situations where the lines can begin to blur if problems arise in the marriage.  It is easy to develop an attraction to someone who is kind to us, shows interest in us, and laughs at our stupid jokes.  And if the person is physically attractive to us, ramp up the danger by a factor of five.  If we find ourselves attracted to someone in a way that is more than platonic, it’s time to take a major step back.  Better yet, step away all together.  Continuing to go down that road is a set up for potential problems.  It is better to never be put in a situation of having to exercise good judgment in a questionable moment, than to trust that we will make the right decision when confronted with that moment.   If we begin to confide in, and bond with members of the opposite sex, it COULD be problematic.  Please understand that I am not saying this is an absolute.  But it would be naïve to think this does not have the potential to be a slippery slope.  In summary, JUST DON’T GO THERE!

 

  • And lastly, but certainly not least, we need to have a healthy physical relationship with our spouse.  Sex matters.  It just does (to most people).  God designed us to be sexual beings.  Sex in a healthy marriage is a bonding experience in profound ways.  It is a physical, emotional, and mental connection we are to have only with our spouse.  We must take care that that component of the relationship remains strong.  We may not need that in our marital relationship every day, or even every week, but we do need it.  It is easy to let weeks or months go by without connecting in this way.  The demands of job, kids, and the aging process itself can sap every spark of energy we can muster.  But neglecting this area of our lives can be dangerous to the marriage.  The Bible instructs married folks to not let long periods of time go by without addressing that need.  Why?  Because if we are not getting that need met at home, there’s a greater chance we’ll get that need met outside the marriage.  And that, my friends, can have devastating consequences.

 

We change as we go through life, but it is imperative that we change together i.e. with our spouse.  We need that relationship to remain strong. 

 

So, what can be done to repair the marriage if one spouse has already cheated?  There must be a willingness on both sides to work through the issues in the marriage.  Honesty, sometime brutal honesty, is required.  The wounded party must be allowed to express the anger, and at times, anguish, that he/she is experiencing.  This issue is not something that most people can just “get over” quickly.  On a couple’s wedding day, when they stand before God, friends, and family, they make an oath to remain faithful for life.  That’s a promise they each expect the other to keep.  The revelation that the promise has been broken can be a hard thing to forgive. 

 

Forgiveness is a process.  It takes time and cannot be rushed.  This requires the patience of the offending party.  Once forgiveness has been given, it can still take a long time for trust to be re-established.  Trust is something that takes a long time to build and even longer time to try to rebuild.  Trust is rebuilt through patience, consistent words and actions of the parties involved.  It can happen if both spouses want it, but it will take time, and that can be utterly frustrating when both parties just want their lives to feel “normal” again.  Counseling can greatly help this process. 

 

I strongly encourage anyone who is struggling with the fallout from an affair to seek professional help.  A counselor can often help open windows into a relationship that help give a clear picture of the real issues within the relationship.  There are certainly couples that survive the effects of an affair without assistance, but the odds of a good outcome are increased with the aid of a trained professional.  Marriages can survive an affair if both spouses are willing to commit to the marriage, and are willing to work to re-establish trust. 

 

Trust is the key.

 

 

 

Why Did My Spouse Cheat? 5 Reasons That Lead to Affairs



By: Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

Why did my spouse cheat on me? While there is no simple answer to this question, there are no doubts that when the news hits someone about a cheating spouse there is a flood of emotions that come with it. After the initial shock and emotions have subsided they begin to search for the answers as to why it happened. Some personal blame may begin to creep in, or guilt and shame that there could have been something done to prevent it from happening. Initial reactions typically run through the entire list of painful negative emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, worry and fear just to name a few.

Looking for answers, the non-cheating spouse will often try to rationalize the behavior or search for meaning as to why the affair happened. Sometimes the answer can be simple but usually there is something going on that is more complex. Here are 5 reasons as to why a spouse can have an affair.

1.      They chose to have one. Let’s just cut right to the chase. Regardless of the underlying reason, on the surface there was an opportunity to have the affair and they chose to move forward with it. There is always a choice whether to have one or not and to speak a simple truth in love is to expose how somewhere along the way that choice was made to have sex outside of the marriage. Like any decision in life there is a choice involved when faced with situations that are within a person’s control.

2.      Unmet emotional needs. One of the most common reasons is unmet emotional needs such as safety, love and nurturing, feeling supported and validated so that the other person feels special and important. When the need is not met then they begin to search for it outside of the marriage. Often this is a feeling or emotion that is running in the background and often not right on the surface and yet there is something that feels unfulfilled. The missing piece is unfulfilled love and intimacy which often becomes confusing by thinking sex is the cure. Feeling the need for sex outside of the marriage is a clear signal that help is needed in order to process through what is going unfulfilled in the relationship.

3.      Unresolved conflict. Marital discord creating anger can manifest outward in a dysfunctional way. Unresolved conflict can lead to feelings of fear of approaching the other spouse leading to perceptions of rejection in an attempt to avoid negativity. The spouse becomes angry and resentful of the spouse and seeks to get consoled elsewhere.

4.      Self pre-occupation. A spouse can feel left out of a marriage because the other spouse is too busy with themselves. This includes working, spending time with other friends and hobbies and a big issue today is spending too much time on the computer and social websites. This becomes an issue with the ignored spouse dealing with loneliness and seeks relationship elsewhere. An increasing factor of marital affairs are due to hook-ups on social websites. Marital affairs have doubled in the past 20 years of which most of it is attributed to people connecting on the internet.

5.      Poor counsel. Where is God in the marriage? What does God’s counsel say regarding marital affairs? Proverbs 13:20 (MSG) Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” In other words, the choice of poor company to hang out with creates a negative influence on the marriage. If a spouse is hanging out with a crowd of people who feel indifferent or think that marriage infidelity is acceptable, then watch out, it is conflict with the values that are reflective of what God has created within the context of marriage. The idea is to hang out with like minded people who support marriage and the values that honor the marriage. Listening to God’s word and accepting it covers a multitude of issues regarding marriage. For any marital affair, God’s wise counsel says it plainly in Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What to Do When You've Been Caught



By Matt W Sandford, LMHC

You worked hard to cover up your infidelity, but then you were found out. Maybe at first there were suspicions that you were able to doge and accusations that you were able to head off or evidence that you were able to cover up or erase? But then the jig was up. Or maybe you got a conscience and got tired of all the lying? Or maybe you actually wanted to come clean and deal with your betrayal?

But now it’s all out there. And your spouse is heartbroken and you are racked with guilt and shame. (I hope you are feeing guilt and shame, for these would be appropriate feelings. I don’t mean to say that I am wishing ill on you, I merely mean that unless you are feeling these emotions, you have little hope for redemption and recovery.)

I am going to assume that you are struggling with you infidelity and that you want to successfully recover your life and your marriage. Otherwise you would be reading something about how to deceive your spouse, or how to enjoy being a non-moral person and shake off those pesky, nagging shameful feelings that have no business showing up in your life. You know, those articles that tell people doing badly that it’s not really bad at all. So, I guess this is some kind of spoiler alert, that you won’t be getting that here.

I think that’s okay, because you probably weren’t looking for that. The ones that are didn’t get this far. You, on the other hand, want to face what you have done and find a way through the mess to a place of forgiveness, for yourself and from your spouse. A place where you and your family could find healing and somehow get back to normalcy of some kind. Let me offer my thoughts to help you get on the track to healing and wholeness.

1.      You are going to have to eat the whole humble pie.

Too often the perpetrator looks for a foothold to justify their behavior, to subtly point a finger, to try and balance the scales so as to share blame. In this way, they hope to ease the burden of their own shame and guilt. I am not suggesting that your partner has no strokes against them. They likely have contributed to marriage difficulties and issues at some point in some way. But pointing at their issues does not lighten your burden. They do not share culpability in your choice to commit adultery. They did not push you into it or give you no choice. Those are rationalizations. Facing that and accepting your responsibility and the pain of your choice is a crucial and necessary step to reconciliation. And it is necessary for your own healing. You can’t heal what you won’t let yourself face. 

 

2.      Then you need to confess what you have done to the offended party.

Let me explain what this really means. It does not mean offering some weak “I’m sooooo sorry” type thing, in which the focus is on your guilt and shame rather than on the hurt your have caused to someone you claim to love. Often we make quick apologies to others when we feel bad, because we long to feel better, to receive the “it’s okay” and be let off the hook. That’s shoddy work reserved for the little slip ups and inconsiderateness’s of everyday life, for which   we are all notorious. But infidelity is not in that category. And that may be something that you need to grapple with. Because you can’t really confess it until you have owned its significance. The depth of betrayal, the damage to trust, the brokenness of covenant. Not exactly the popular stance of our current culture concerning marriage and sexual fidelity.  Of course those living by the current culture are also mired in emotional, relational and spiritual quicksand and are drowning in immaturity and pain.

 

God’s view is different. And it offers real healing as a result of real confession. And that means that the perpetrator must listen to the offended party and allow them to express the depth of the hurt. Not to punish you, but so you can know and understand them. When you have listened and understood, then you can make your confession, which is mostly an expression of how you see how you have wounded them.  

 

3.      Next, you will need to be transparent, if you desire to rebuild trust.

You will absolutely need to grant your spouse complete access to your phone, internet accounts, finances, schedule, business clients, Facebook page, you name it. And I don’t mean when they ask for it. I mean, you surrender all of it, willingly, before they ask. And not just a few times; you consistently volunteer up your accounts and activity and bare all to them. I understand your protest, that it feels unfair and embarrassing, maybe controlling, or being treated like a child. And if it is demanded of you it would seem that way. Which is why you volunteer it first. If they have to ask for it, that’s when you’ll feel weird. And if you put up any resistance, then that will only erode the relationship at the very point at which you are trying to rebuild. You will need the attitude that decides that transparency is what I really want in my relationship. And to see it not as a punishment, but rather a privilege to share all of myself with my spouse. No secrets. Again, this is actually not just good and healing for them, but you too.

4.      Accept the Consequences

Some consequences will be specific to each situation. But certainly a couple of  consequences are suspicion and lack of trust from your spouse. Balking and complaining about them only reveals that you don’t understand the depth of the pain you have caused and that you aren’t committed to the healing process. Is it hard and uncomfortable to be under suspicion, over a period of time? Sure. Accept it anyway. Learn patience and humility through it. Let God use it in your life.

5.      Focus More on Personal Growth than on Felling Better

Notice that the elements here are all about personal growth – humility, empathy, patience endurance. Acknowledge that there was some kind of very dangerous personal issue inside you that brought you to this point in your life. Brokenness is what God would have you experience, in order to restore you and transform you. Psalms 51. Not to take you down, but to lift you up. There is a passage in Hebrews 12, in which we are taught that discipline from God is for our good, that although it is painful it produces the fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.

I can’t conclude better than that.

 

 

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