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Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

I had a funny dream the other night. In the dream, I was at a hair salon getting a service done to my hair and the price quoted to me kept changing until the time of payment. The price quoted went from $30 to $300, $30,000, and finally $300,000!  Obviously, the whole dream was ridiculous, but when I woke myself up from the dream, I thought about our current podcast on Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships and how small choices can cost us much more than we could ever have imagined.

If you have ever been in an emotionally unhealthy dating relationship or marriage, you understand there are emotional, social, physical, financial and spiritual costs to unhealthy relationships that we never could have comprehended at the time that we agreed to the start relationship.  The problem is that we can only know what we have been taught or have seen modeled. Most of the time, we don’t really know our issues or the issues of others until we are fully invested in an intimate relationship with that person. Intimacy with someone seems to pull out the unresolved issues of our childhood. Did we have controlling or abusive parents?  Were your parents co-dependent with others? Did our parents give us a voice to say what we thought, felt, or wanted to choose? Were we modeled healthy conflict resolution in our childhood home? Your attachment pattern was established in the first three years of your life and your worldview was formed in the first twelve years of your life. Consequently, we really need to resolve and receiving healing from the wounds of our childhood before we enter into a relationship with someone so they do not affect others. There is hope! You can be restored! You can be healed! Your relationships can be repaired! However, this will involve the uncomfortable process of ripping off the band-aid that covers these childhood wounds and allowing yourself to receive healing and learning new skills and ways of doing things.

Do not be deceived, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you according to Philippians 4:13. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss eleven different elements that make a relationship emotionally healthy.

You are only defined by your mistakes if you give the mistake the power to drive your life

In the past several months, there have been several very costly mistakes made by the members of my household, including yours truly.  In my case, it was a mistake that cost thousands of dollars and was the single largest mistake of my adult life.  However, as time and perspective have added to the event, there is redemption.  It’s been a bittersweet time in my family because there is a pain with the mistakes, but there have been incredible lessons that have come out of the situations if we choose to learn instead of defining ourselves by the mistake.  Shame would like to define you by your mistake because shame would want to keep you powerless and move you toward hiding and numbing behaviors.  In turn, this chains a prisoner to the mistake.  However, that is not the attitude of any emotionally healthy parent nor of God.   No good parent wants their child to identify only with the negative aspects of their being or with their mistakes.  Alternatively, abusive parents may use shame and guilt as a manipulation tool to remain in control of the child’s behavior.  Good parents know that the child who focuses on their mistakes or their weak areas will not move toward their potential and, in turn, will stay powerless and/or start operating in more fear.  Parents who understand this paradigm will work hard to try and tell and show their child their value.

Have you ever met a person that does not accept compliments well?  The moment we tell the individual something terrific about them or their action, they discount the praise by telling you why it is not true or why someone else is better.  In this person, shame is the shield they choose to carry and the only evidence that will, unfortunately, penetrate that shield are things that focus on the negative aspects of self.  Your efforts feel invalidated and powerless when you are the person who is trying to affirm and compliment because shame prevents the positive truth from passing to the depths of the person.  As a parent, we can feel very helpless when our children embrace negative cycles instead of choosing positive.  Our efforts can feel as if they are in vain and we desire is to see our children embracing positive and moving toward truth that is powerful.  God feels the same way.  He wishes to penetrate our shield of shame and see us move powerfully.  However, he has given us free will and will not penetrate our shame unless we invite him to do so.  God, like good parents, is more focused on how you think about yourself and how you process mistakes and failures than he is about the mistake or the failure.  Of course, there are natural and logical consequences of every mistake that is made.  If we did not receive natural or logical consequences to our mistakes or failures, we would not learn to be wise.  If I tell my child not to touch a hot stove and they do so, they will burn themselves.  This natural consequence helps become the bridge between inexperience and wisdom.  However, repeatedly focusing on their failure to obey my directions and their mistake of touching the stove, will only create shame in the child and shame only produces more powerlessness.  Unfortunately, if I believe myself to be shameful, I will behave out of a motivation of shame.  God, like good parents, is more focused on you seeing yourself through his eyes of love and not through the shame lens of your mistakes.  He, like good parents, wishes you to live to your fullest potential.  Where are you operating in shame?  Where do you focus on the mistakes of your past as your identity?  God desires to release you from that heavy load of shame, but you are going to have to begin to let his truth and other people’s positive truth about you change the way you think.  We find what we are looking for in life.  What are you looking for today?  Shame’s powerlessness or Freedom’s powerfulness?

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

When I was five years old, my parents took our family on a day trip to an amusement park outside of Philadelphia. I begged my parents to ride the wooden roller coaster at the park only to discover that it was a traumatic experience that would linger with me for many years.  The amusement park did not have height restrictions, seat belts or other safety precautions back then. They should have had those safeguards though because my mother fought to keep me from falling out of the ride!  Many years later, I can still remember the trauma of being unable to hold onto the safety bar and bouncing around the car only to feel as if at any second I would fall out.  That experience stayed with me and I was unwilling to try anything adventurous at amusement parks for many years after that.  Finally, a friend convinced me to try the roller coaster again when I was 14 and I discovered I enjoyed the adrenaline rush! After that, I tried anything and everything until I hit the age when motion sickness became the norm.
I share this story as a means of explaining recovery.  Sometimes, you can hold on really tight to recovery and the sheer exhaustion of holding onto recovery causes us to tire and release our grip. Then, we bounce all over the place in times of high stress. I call this kind of recovery “White Knuckle” Recovery.  I am holding on to my recovery so tightly because I have not grown emotionally to the point that I have the strength to hold on the emotional safety bar with ease while I ride the hills and curves of stress.  Many times people are white-knuckling their recovery to please a person who is also riding through life with them. They hold on to the safety bar of recovery so tightly that they eventually lose strength, let go, and give up again.  There is a constant cycle of holding onto the safety bar of recovery only to eventually cycle out of recovery when the going gets rough. It can be a vicious cycle. The person holding on tightly to the safety bar of recovery is emotionally weak because they have not worked to strengthen their emotional muscle energy.  True recovery comes when people do a variety of activities to make sure they can hold on to their recovery. These activities include :
1.  Working on the issues of their childhood that cause them to lose their grip.
2.  Growing in their understanding of the truth about themselves and replacing childhood beliefs with adult beliefs.  Just like we grow physically, people will grow emotionally when they focus on self-growth.
3.  Feeding on a steady diet of emotional and spiritual truth. This is the food that enables a person to have the strength to withstand the speed and stress of the ride of life.

We are not promised a life without struggle. However, we are promised that truth will bring freedom, that love can replace fear, and that letting go of childish ways can enable us to ride through life in a freedom that helps us intuitively know what to do when we encounter difficult stress.  Are you “white knuckling” your recovery or are you taking the steps to enable yourself to make stronger decisions and ride in freedom?  Believe it or not, you can enjoy the ride when you take the steps to no longer ride as a child.

I Corinthians 13: 8-13 ( NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.