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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.

Thou Shalt Not Steal From Others

“Thou shalt not steal from others” means much more than just not stealing physical property. I came to this realization when I read a portion of “The Practical Bible” by Dennis Prager. People typically speak about the 8th commandment “Do not steal.” strictly from the viewpoint of physical theft. Yet, in the Hebrew translations of the word, stealing is used in a much broader context where it refers to the of stealing of another person’s mind. In my counseling practice, I see and hear the effects of robbery related to the soul and spirit. Some people have been robbed of trust. Others were manipulated into believing a lie about another person or idea. In addition, many people have had their dignity stolen by another person through humiliating emotional, verbal or physical abuse. If we think of stealing using this broader definition, we see that many people are struggling with crippling issues because their personal dignity has been stolen.

If we think about how to prevent the robbery of physical property, it will give us clues about how to prevent the robbery of our soul and spirit. So how does one prevent the robbery in a home? Many people do not know how to protect themselves physically or emotionally because of what they were forced to endure in their childhood. Consequently, they do not know how to protect themselves emotionally as an adult. The following is a short list of theft protection methods for our soul and emotions:

1. Be careful who you invite into your home. We don’t allow strangers into our home without knowing who they are and whether they are safe. Hence, we do not allow strangers to know the more intimate details of our life until they have earned our trust. Vulnerability and intimacy are earned. It is not a right of those who try to enter our lives. If you grew up in a home where your parents demanded things of you that were inappropriate, you might not know how to set boundaries with new people or demanding people.

2. We look for evidence of actions that proves a person is who they say they are to us. What is their identifying information? Are their words and actions in agreement? Anybody can spin words to create the right impression but their actions reveal who they really are regardless of the spin. If we grew up in homes where parents said all the right things but acted hypocritically, we might be easily confused because we were forced to trust hypocritical parents.

3. We let safe people in our lives know when we will be away so that they can watch for things that might be out of the ordinary. We need the people around us to be part of our safety net so they can report suspicious behavior to us or to the proper authorities. We need to lean into the protection of a caring community that can see past our blind spots. Sometimes we grew up in isolated families where this was absent. Therefore, it feels uncomfortable to allow others into our lives. However, the truth is that the safest place to be is with safe people.

4. We invite our beloved guard dog friend to take a position of protection in our lives and to alert us when something concerning is happening. Sure, they might alert bark at a lot of things, but in the end, they will alert us when something is off. Who is that nurturing person who protects you? We may need to invite them to be more of a protector to us than we are currently allowing them to be in our life.

5. We have fences, locks, and security systems that keep our property from being vandalized and we keep them in proper working order. If there is a door that doesn’t lock, we figure out how to repair that lock or replace that lock. Are there things or issues in your life that keep allowing destructive influences into your life? If so, you need to address these issues differently so that you can live in a safe environment.

God does not want you to be a victim of theft any more than you do. The reality is that He created the ten commandments for his people to live by so they would be safe and protected. He clearly stated this commandment as the only open-ended commandment by which we were to live by. Therefore, do not steal. Do not steal dignity. Do not steal trust. Do not steal joy. Do not steal freedom. Do not steal a reputation. Do not steal property. Do not steal.

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.

I Am Woman! Hear me…Meow?

I remember a commercial from my childhood vividly in which the woman proudly declared she could bring home the bacon, take care of the home, and extend value to her relationships because she was a woman! It was an empowering message for women in the 1980’s who were breaking out of the constraints that had been placed on them by society, but it was a myth that grew in strength and has created a loss in many when they were not able to be everything to everybody. Every choice has positives elements that bring peace or life, and every choice has losses that are tied to that choice. For example, as a working woman, I may decide that I do not have the strength to make a homemade dinner and might opt for takeout. The choice is positive for me in that I have extended self-care to myself by the choice takeout has brought me, but the loss is in finances and maybe health quotient. So how do you make decisions when each decision brings loss? This is where I, as a woman, have to include my spirit. This is where I consult the higher power of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says the Spirit of God knows what we need when we do not. I will be honest: there are times I want with all my heart to make a choice for self-care and ignore the losses, but only caring for self can sometimes numb the loss. On a recent afternoon, I arrived home exhausted and laid down in my dark bedroom and watched “Christmas in Connecticut” thinking there was no way I could make dinner. However, as I gave myself care for that half hour things evolved and when I asked the Holy Spirit about making dinner, I felt encouraged to make dinner and did it with an ease that had not existed the previous hour. Where did that strength come from? God. It says in the Bible that Jesus is before the throne of God interceding for us and supplying our needs, but what we need changes daily and we have a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the power inside of us when we do not. Next time you are questioning what you should choose, ask God to show you. He knows what you do not and can direct you to deal with things you did not know you could deal with today.

John 16:13
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

1980’s commercial I referred to in my post
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q0P94wyBYk

Pushing Beyond the Waves

Have you ever tried to navigate a boat from the bay to the open ocean? It is not an easy process depending upon how large the waves that are coming in are sized. Fighting against the waves is a complicated process, and many choose not to push through the waves to the freedom of the open sea. Instead, they stay in the calm waters of the bay. The same goes for choices in life. Many make decisions based on the amount of resistance the decision will incur, not on the freedom on the other side of the wave line. The waves can be like so many things that resist you moving to freedom and, let’s make this clear, waves only move in one direction. They do not change course; you have to wade through them to get to the other side of the wave line:

1. Your psyche that has been doing things the same way for years on end.
2. Your family or friends who like what you do for them and resist your making changes.
3. Your psyche that feels guilt and shame when changes are made, and people are upset.
4. Finances that seem stuck in holding patterns.
5. Jobs that do not create opportunities for advancement.

The list could go on forever, but the theme is the same. There will never a time when the waves of life are not preventing you from moving forward, be it emotionally, socially, behaviorally, financially, etc. So how do we have hope to go through the wave line to the freedom of the open seas that will take us to new destinations? The answer is hope. Hope is like the lifeline of a life preserver – that when I cling to it, I do not go under the water but stay on top. What you put your hope in becomes the larger question. Is your hope in your attitude, your hard work, your plan, your family, your friends? Your government?

I put my hope in God, and God becomes my flotation device as I face the waves that come my way. There will always be waves, but there will always be a true God and I put my hope in Him.

A psalm of David when he fled from his son, Absalom.
1 LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 4 I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side

Are You Helping a Fool? Five Questions to Help You Know

Are You Helping a Fool? Five Questions to Help You Know
How did you react to the recent national traumas of these past two weeks? Did it cause you to want to say or do something about the pain you witnessed or did it make you want to shrink back into a place of self-numbing withdrawal? Trauma causes us to have flight or fight responses to other things that stir up pain inside of us. Think about your friends and family and your reactions to their pain. Standing back and watching friends and family experience pain is difficult in many ways. When we see someone in pain, we can experience empathy for similar pains from our past and we do one of two things: we rush to the scene to help the person in any way we can, or we turn our heads to the side and look away. If we do not look at it, we will not experience the pain as strongly. The fight to help the trauma and the flight away from it can both be unhealthy responses when dealing with someone who maintains foolish habits and keeps making the same poor choices over and over. The Bible is full of many proverbial instructions on dealing with foolish behavior. The general rules are summarized as to have boundaries and consequences for foolish behavior, but to not expend any of your resources of time, finances, and wisdom on people who repeatedly make poor choices. People have to experience the consequences or the pain of their poor choices in order make the changes they need to make in their lives. Pain motivates us to make a decision to alleviate pain, but if people are carrying our pain for us in areas in which we are foolish, we will not feel pain. What are the areas in which you are carrying the pain for those around you who are repeatedly making foolish choices?
  1. Do you make excuses for your family’s or friend’s foolishness?
  2. Do you rescue your family member from the consequences of their foolish choices?
  3. Do you make decisions for family or friends when they refuse to not make decisions?
  4. Do you to protect people’s feelings and not tell them the truth of their actions?
  5. Do you allow your boundaries or values to change because of your family and friend’s foolish behaviors?
If you are doing the above actions, you are enabling more foolishness in the lives of friends and family. It is time to stop fighting to and flighting from the pain of those around us and it’s time to actually help.
Proverbs 26:4-5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.