When You Desire to Run

You are feeling overwhelmed. Your heart is racing and your chest is flooded with adrenaline. Your first thought Is “I have to get out of here, and now!”

This is a description of what me and many of my clients say they experience just before they run. Often this happens in the midst of conflict and total and utter chaos. Typically I find with those who desire to run, is that they thrive on peace and strive to stay out of chaos. Unfortunately they are also the people who invite chaos makers into their lives, who ultimately steal their peace.

The many ways to run:

  1. Flee – out the door not to be seen again for hours.
  2. Shut down – physically the body shuts down and eyes start to close or eye contact is lost.
  3. Shut up – the silent treatment is a powerful weapon. Every part of you is screaming inside, but not a word is to be spoken…or you lose. The most you might speak is “I am fine” when obviously everyone can see that you are far from fine.
  4. Stuff it into the abyss – you may run from the problems by stuffing it far far down inside of you, never to be discussed again.

All of these ways of coping cause tremendous stress for you, because nothing is EVER resolved. You continue to feel overwhelmed, anxious and unhappy. Fortunately there is another way.

In the midst of chaos and conflict when you begin feeling overwhelmed, here is a healthy process to follow:

  1. Choose to take a break/timeout. This is different than running, for you will let the other person know that you need to take a break, and will be back.
  2. Go to a peaceful place where you can diffuse the anxiety and settle yourself down.
  3. Breathe. My favorite technique is 4-7-8. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, and let out for 8 counts. You will feel quite differently after this exercise and will begin to think more clearly.
  4. What is bugging you? There is a reason you are feeling overwhelmed. Try to determine what the reason is. Do you dislike the way you are being spoke to? Are you being accused of something when your mate brings something to you? Or are you feeling defensive when an issue is being brought up?
  5. What is the feeling? You are being bugged due to your feelings. Are you feeling hurt, disrespected, alone, unloved, or even fearful?
  6. What do you need to ask for? Based on your feelings you are needing something. Do you need to ask your mate to speak to you with respect? Are you wanting your mate to show you love in a certain way?
  7. Call a time “IN.” Once you are feeling calm & clear, ask your mate if you can talk with them. Share with him/her how you are feeling, and what you are requesting of them, and see how they respond.

Often with this process, I see people move from anxiety to clarity and confidence when they realize that there is a way to resolve their issue and live in peace.

You can contact Teri at teri@thecenterforhealing.org or visit our website at www.thecenterforhealing.org.

  • What Can We Help You With Today?

Avoiding the Tornados in Your Chaotic Marriage

Teri JohnsonI speak to many many people who feel completely powerless to change their chaotic marriage. They firmly believe that anytime they interact with their spouse, there will be fighting, defensiveness, and complete chaos.

To some extent they are completely right. They have taken part in a dysfunctional pattern in their marriage that keeps yielding the same results, a completely chaotic marriage.

Your Chaotic Marriage May Feel Like a Tornado

I call the chaos in your marriage the “tornado.” The tornado in many a chaotic marriage may look like…

  1. Explosive anger
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Blame-shifting
  4. Rewriting history
  5. Twisting the story
  6. Black & white thinking
  7. And Stonewalling…just to name a few.

These behaviors are so destructive that they must be stopped.

Common Issues in a Chaotic Marriage

Unfortunately many get stuck in the chaos for various reasons. The most common issue is not truly understanding what a healthy loving marriage looks like. Often people come from a home with an chaotic marriage themselves, therefore they  lack a role model showing healthy relating. This results in a marriage with many dysfunctional patterns, which is considered “normal.”

Secondly, spouses get confused by the chaos creator. A logical, reasonable request or discussion most commonly gets twisted, misconstrued, and flipped into being the spouses fault or own personal problem. Personal responsibility is rarely ever taken.

We Can Help you Find Peace in Your Chaotic Marriage

The frantic question I always get is “how can I create change in my chaotic marriage?” Well the simple answer is STOP! Stop jumping into the path of the chaos tornado. You can do this by:

  • Refusing to get hooked into a fight.
  • Refrain from responding with logic and reason to completely illogical thinking.
  • Start having good boundaries by choosing to disengage when the chaos surfaces.
  • Clearly communicate your boundaries by sharing with your spouse what you will no longer tolerate in your marriage.
  • Follow through with appropriate consequences when boundaries are broken. I.e. Disengage, leave the room, leave the house for the night.
  • Request an apology and amends be made before fully re-engaging.

The blessing is that you can absolutely create change in your marriage. With consistent boundaries and follow through, a peaceful and connected marriage is possible.

If you could relate to this blog and need additional coaching, you can contact Teri at teri@marriagerecoverycenter.com.

Marriage Therapy in Seattle – Men Can Change

Is Marriage Therapy the Answer you Seek?

Marriage Therapy in SeattleI have written extensively about women who are intensively frustrated with men, and moreover feel exasperated and at times hopeless about the prospect of her man’s ability to change. I want to offer hope—lot’s of it.

As I continue to write about this topic, many women (and some men!) have responded. Many indicate they were glad I finally understood what they have been experiencing for years. Instead of being told to “hang in there,” or “keep on praying,” I offered counsel concerning setting healthy boundaries.

Here are a few excerpts from responses sent to me:

After reading this article I am encouraged to finally see that we who have been in the same situation as this wife are not being advised to be more submissive, a better wife, lover, etc. as I have often been advised. I have also been in this same situation.  What I have learned is to be submissive to the Lord and show love in the way of confronting the problems in a God-honoring way.  I have set many boundaries.  I have been in an unfaithful, verbally, emotional and sometimes physically abusive marriage for almost 15 yrs.  I have always had this gnawing in my gut that I must stay in the marriage, convinced that it is the Holy Spirit’s leading.  I have gone to individual therapy, marital counseling and have a library of books and media on how to have a good marriage.  I have been on anti-depressants for 4 years due to the last time my husband cheated on me.

I appreciate the way this woman worded her new response to abuse: to “show love in the way of confronting the problems in a God-honoring way.” This involves speaking truthfully about problems, not ignoring them. It involves accountability, much like God holds us accountable for our behavior. It involves showing her husband respect, and expecting respect in return.

Another woman wrote:

My husband and I met 5 years ago while in college. From the beginning there has been lying and deception on his part, most of which I did not find out about until after we had married. When we got married I was 19 he was 20 and we had moved off campus together after becoming engaged. We were going to church, but living a lifestyle that was far from saved. Our pastor insisted that we start marriage counseling as soon as he found out that we were living together and I think that prompted our rush to the alter. Three months into our marriage my husband had the first of 3 affairs. He became both physically and emotionally abusive. I left, he attempted suicide I came back and dropped the charges. When is enough enough?

Again, we are never to tolerate abuse. God never intended us to live in a relationship fraught with violence. Women, and men, need to put their foot down on intolerable behavior. We must have a no-tolerance policy on abusive behavior. Then, and only then, will violence stop!

With Marriage Therapy, Men Can Change

The counsel I gave in the last article remains appropriate to many who have written about destructive behavior in their marriage. I offer it again for your consideration and feedback.

First, her husband makes promises to change, but then doesn’t do it.

Before we become too critical of him, let’s remember that this is the human condition: we all make promises we don’t keep. Many of us underestimate the task and the tenacity and challenge of changing. However, this is no reason not to change.

Second, this woman enables him not to change.

Like many of us, she tolerates too much misbehavior and violence. Not only does she tolerate his violence, but accepts his apologies, allowing the cycle to continue. She accepts his resistance to counseling, when clearly a professional intervention is needed. She accepts his excuse that he knows what he must do, implying that he is capable of changing himself, when that is not true.

In my book, When Trying to Change Him is Hurting You, I fully explore the tendency of women to be long-suffering, when limits should be set. I examine why so little change occurs in marriages and why women end up so frustrated. Much of it has to do with settling for too little change when more is needed.

Third, while it is true that God changes hearts, He also expects us to do our part.

The Gospels are replete with advice about changing our behavior. In speaking to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul tells us, “You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3: 8) Such actions are not consistent with the changed heart.  She must hold her husband accountable for his behavior.

Fourth, set firm boundaries.

Should this woman continue on, believing that perhaps the next time he rages, calls names or humiliates her will be his last? Should she simply keep praying that God will change his heart, while she pretends things are improving? No!

Men (and women!) behave in ways that are reinforced or tolerated. Many men are challenged when it comes to relating effectively, and women must not enable them to remain emotionally challenged. While it is not your job to change men, it is also unrealistic to think they simply change by themselves. Men need help! Relationship can be one of the best places to learn about healthy relating. Men need women to set boundaries on our anger, violence and insensitivity. Men need women to insist on professional assistance when that is what is called for. Men need women not to naively believe them when they say they can fix themselves. We cannot fix ourselves!

Finally, accept the immensity of the problem.

How will you know when men are serious about change? Again, the Apostle Paul talks about “having sorrow in a godly way results in repentance,” which means turning away from old behavior. (II Corinthians 7: 10) If our behavior doesn’t change, it suggests we don’t have godly sorrow about it or we haven’t been convicted of the immensity of the problem. When we fully accept the gravity of our wrongful behavior (sin) and feel convicted about it, we will seek whatever measures are necessary for change to occur.

Nobody said change was easy. However, with Christ, “all things are possible.” ( Philippians 4: 13) As men (and women!) surrender to Him, and fully acknowledge the severity and magnitude of their problems and need to change, they are empowered to change. Thank God!

I’d like to hear from others who are trying to set healthy boundaries. How are you doing with it? What are the challenges and what are the benefits?

If you would like to learn more about healthy relating, please take a look around our site to discover more information about this topic, find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. I’d also encourage you to watch my video series, 30 Days to Relational Fitness and please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com if you need help.

Getting your Marriage Unstuck through Marriage Counseling in Seattle

As we explore Marriage Counseling in Seattle, we often get many emails like this…

marriage counseling in seattleThis email we received at the Marriage Recovery Center had the same desperate plea: “Help us please because we are STUCK!”

Couples seeking marriage counseling in Seattle and all over the Pacific Northwest are stuck in their same dysfunctional patterns of anger, defensiveness or end up giving up and shutting down.  On occasion, we experience some couples, that despite our confronting harmful patterns and teaching new healthy patterns, will still scream out for help in their “stuckness”

We have come to discover that these couples are stuck due to their own personal brokenness that they bring to their marriage.  Out of their own hurt they are unable to reach out and help each other. “Hurting people hurt people.”

An example of how Marriage Counseling in Seattle helps through the Marriage Recovery Center?

An example of this brokenness is a sixty-year old woman speaking to her husband bitterly due to her feelings of rejection and loneliness. She is NOT only speaking from just the current rejection she is experiencing, but is also responding from that 6-year old child that experienced rejection from her family.  The current rejection from her husband is essentially reinforcing her 6-year old belief that she will be rejected and alone. With this well engrained belief, this woman may come to expect rejection and even push her husband away in order to protect herself.  The result is in her being totally and completely alone.

Over the years we have come to specialize in extremely difficult marriages. Marriages that have experienced emotional abuse, addictions and affairs. Most challenging of them all is counseling couples with character issues.  These would be individuals with dysfunctional character traits, thinking errors, and other destructive ways that are deeply embedded in these individuals. Many would define these character traits as personality disorders, such as Narcissism (NPD), Borderline (BPD), and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OPCD). Many who have been married to a mate with any of these traits would tell you to run the other way!  We have found just the opposite to be true.  The symptoms of any of these personality disorders is merely an indication of a deep pain or trauma in a person’s life that has left them stuck in responding and reacting to issues in a really destructive way.

Fortunately, we have discovered a phenomenal healing process that we integrated into our Core Integration for Marriage Counseling in Seattle

At the Marriage Recovery Center, we’ve implemented an Intensive therapy format that is producing incredible success at helping these individuals get unstuck. This healing process is called Lifespan Integration (www.lifespanintegration.com) or The Healing Timeline (www.healingtimeline.com) which is the Christian version of Lifespan Integration (LI). LI seeks out the core issue/memory from the past that has an individual stuck in their current adult life. For instance the sixty year old woman mentioned earlier identifies the source of her rejection and goes to that memory of being rejected at 6 years old.  We allow her to experience the feelings of that memory, and stay in it just long enough to uncover those deep feelings. We then quickly invite her adult self into the memory to protect the 6 year old, comfort her, and help speak for her when she cannot. We then integrate this experience into her life by walking through a memory from each year of her life from the age in the memory, i.e 7, 8, 9 all the way to age 60. With the Healing timeline, we have the client invite Jesus into her memory and let him speak his truth to her.  Without fail, each time we go into the memory and then integrate it into a person’s life, we find the intensity of the emotion lessens until finally it is completely gone.  This is all done without re-traumatizing the person.

There is even a scientific component to this healing process. When we experience trauma, the neurons in our brains become stuck in our current age. The neurons then fail to connect to the proceeding years.  With Lifespan Integration, stuck neurons begin to integrate from the stuck age to the client’s current age, causing permanent and lasting results.

We have seen huge success in healing sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect, marriage wounds, and many other very painful memories.

Just some of the successes we have seen in the past 2 months:

  • a woman unable to get off her couch for years due to many wounds from her childhood and marriage, has begun venturing into a life filled with joy and participating in fun activities with her husband.
  • a man feeling unloved by his wife, identified the source as a teenage wound from his parents not supporting him in sports. Now healed from his wound, he has discovered the great love he already receives from his wife.
  • a woman separated from her husband, lived in fear and anxiety due to suppressed abuse and trauma from childhood. She is now enjoying a peaceful approach to life and is experiencing more strength and confidence.
  • a woman suffering through grief over the recent loss of her parent, was able to heal through her grieving process and look at life with more hope.

With each of these scenarios, the pain and trauma from life was complicating their marriage relationship. Following LI/The Healing Timeline, they have all experienced a deeper connection with their mate, less conflict in relating, and have approached life with more joy and peace.

If you are looking for Marriage Counseling in Seattle…let us help!

Stop feeling stuck in your marriage and the dealing with past trauma and pain that keeps you stuck. Contact us today to schedule a Personal Intensive and follow up with a Marriage Intensive and in depth marriage counseling in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

  • What Can We Help You With Today?

Having an Affair: Broken Before the Infidelity Began

There is perhaps no greater pain than that of intimate betrayal by a mate. The one whom you’ve entrusted your life to, whom you’ve shared every intimate aspect of living with, now has shared those very aspects of their being with someone else—a place and part of them reserved exclusively for you.

Having an affair, physical or emotional, is a betrayal of the worst kind, leaving us breathless, hopeless and with a loss of meaning.

Having an AffairPerhaps your mate is having an affair with your best friend. Maybe it was a casual friendship on Facebook that went from friendly to familiar to failure. Perhaps your mate has had serial affairs and you’ve just discovered the damage. Your mind races, your emotions range from maddening frenzy to abject panic. You can’t eat, sleep or think straight.

Nothing is as painful as an affair. You trusted someone with your heart, soul and emotions; you expected faithfulness. You counted on them to keep you safe. An affair shatters the trust, safety and honesty you believed in.

“How could they do that to me?  How can someone I love and trust betray me in this way?” you ask.

Having an affair seems unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unbearable. After all, the one who had the affair is the one who stepped out of the sacred bounds of the marriage.

With feelings intensified, the victim often attacks the villain, creating even more distance than existed before. Feeling intensely betrayed, enraged and resentful, the lines are drawn—victim and villain. While it is tempting to close our hearts, vilifying the one who had the affair, we must examine what led up to the affair.

As we embark on this journey to examining why it happened, I must be clear—nothing justifies an affair. This is a form of acting out in a most egregious manner. This is a most hurtful response to inner and outer stress. It is a failed attempt to find peace that only leads to even greater pain.

As we attempt to unravel the complex layers of problems, we often find many “reasons” why an affair can happen. Never justified, an affair often has meaning, and understanding that meaning can provide insurance against it ever happening again.

Most affairs occur in the context of significant marriage issues. Again, while this in no way justifies an affair, the skilled counselor can help the couple look deeper at the marriage problems that existed long before the affair took place. The marriage usually needs far more repair than problems caused by the affair alone.

Studies show that marriages susceptible to having an affair struggled with these issues:

  1. A lack of functionality – fighting about the same issues again and again;
  2. A lack of intimacy – ineffective communication, with feelings of distance, resentment and turmoil;
  3. A Lack of Acceptance/ Significance – ignoring your mate’s need for acceptance, appreciation and significance;
  4. A lack of excitement – allowing the relationship to become stale, with little “spark” or adventure;
  5. A lack of sexual enthusiasm – allowing their sexual life to become boring and routine, or perhaps nonexistent.

If you find yourself with some of these “symptoms,” seek immediate, in depth help. Your relationship is vulnerable to an affair.

If you are struggling from the aftermath of your mate having an affair, here are steps to take to recover:

Be with your feelings. The one who has been victimized, as well as the one who had the affair, has feelings about what took place. Both must learn to be patient as they work through feelings of betrayal. Healing will take time, and you must settle in for a long period of counseling. The one victimized by the affair can expect to have a long season of roller coaster emotions, and the one who had the affair must be very patient in the healing process.

Consider trauma work. Through special interventions such as Lifespan Integration and Core Self Integration, (read about these on our website) in the company of a caring, trusted and trained marriage counselor, you can move through this trauma. Should you fail to move through the trauma, this suggests further intervention is needed—and available. We will help you determine what is blocking and impeding growth and recovery.

Recognize both played a role in the affair. This doesn’t mean the victim “caused” the affair, or must take responsibility for it. What it means is both are responsible for creating an environment in which an affair could occur (short of being married to a sexual addict.) Subsequently, both will need healing and changes to their personality and patterns of relating to ensure an affair doesn’t recur.

Both must take an active role in healing from the affair. Both must examine the circumstances in the marriage prior to the affair, exploring ways their communication, conflict resolution skills, and perhaps patterns of intimacy, played a role in the affair. Both must be diligent about taking responsibility for their part, and set out to heal problems. Again, this is where trauma work may play a role in their healing.

Understand that it will take time, and effort, to restore trust. Trust can be restored, but this will require effort and wisdom. Healthy boundaries must be restored to the marriage. The one who had the affair must show, repeatedly, that they are truly sorry for the damage they have caused. Both must be committed to long term healing of the marriage.

Make every effort to understand what your mate is experiencing. If you had the affair, make continuous effort to understand your mate’s feelings of betrayal. If you have been victimized, work at seeing the larger picture. Try to see the affair as a symptom of a larger, more complex problem.

Agree to grow through this trauma, not simply go through it. Locking arms, dedicated to healing, you both can work diligently with a trained specialist to heal and become stronger than ever before. Notice the gains, reinforce progress, and dedicate yourselves to having a healthier marriage than ever before.

I fully recognize that finding out your mate is having an affair is an incredibly sensitive topic.

It is so easy and tempting to become adversarial, shift into blaming and shaming, when what is needed is a fierce desire to become united to save your marriage. This “rollercoaster” recovery is best done with expert help, and we at The Marriage Recovery Center are available.

Please contact us for help…

Overcoming Resistance to Marriage Counseling

Are your thinking, “There is no way he’ll agree to marriage counseling” Well, you’re not alone!

Why is he emotionally abusive | Marriage Recovery Center“He doesn’t think we need marriage counseling,” “He says what happens behind closed doors is our business and besides, we’ve tried marriage counseling in the past and it didn’t work.”

Feeling discouraged about your marriage? Praying for change in your husband and your marriage, but see things continuing to deteriorate?

Quotation marksThings don’t change, we do! If we don’t make significant changes, our relationships won’t change.”

- Dr. David Hawkins

If you find yourself saying, “I know that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results. Still, I find myself hitting a brick wall with him.” We can help

To be fair, it certainly isn’t always the man who resists marriage counseling. Many women resist going to a counselor, indicating they’ve been to counseling in the past and it hasn’t worked for them.

Wanting change, whether from your husband or your wife, requires a very delicate dance. Few lean into a change process. Change, by its very nature, is disruptive and most resist it. Yet, if we don’t go through something disruptive, if we don’t look critically at how we are living and relating, we’re not likely to change. If we don’t change, our relationship will continue to decline.

So, you are left to make a critical decision. I ask you to take inventory with these questions:

  • Is your marriage all you hope it to be?
  • Have you outlined a clear path, with clear expectations, about the change you desire?
  • Have you insisted on change, being willing to make the same changes yourself? Have you led the way in making changes?
  • Are you willing to draw boundaries, making it clear that there will be consequences if there were not to be changes?
  • Have you confronted your own tendencies to enable the situation not to change?

You want significant change. It is possible, but it will require something of you. You must be willing to experience a “breakdown that leads to a breakthrough.” Things must fall apart before they can be put back together in a healthy way.

We can lead you through that process!

Interestingly, you may be thinking he, or she, must have the breakdown that leads to the breakthrough. While that is certainly true, you too must have your own breakdown leading to a breakthrough. You must realize that what you’re doing is not working. You must be willing to experience the disruption that comes from not enabling a destructive process. You must be willing to give up some comforts as you cross over the bridge of change.

Note the Scripture on the process of change and the cost to us:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14: 28)

Now of course this Scripture is not literally talking about money, though that is part of the process. Change requires that we prepare thoroughly for what the change process will demand of us. You will experience disruption to your life. You will likely receive pushback/ resistance. Therefore, you must be clear, concise and filled with an inner conviction that what you want is worthy of your efforts.  

Let’s look a little more closely at the process of change and what marriage counseling can do to bring about change about:

First, begin with cultivating clarity.

You must be clear about what it is you need changed. Sit back, perhaps with a trusted friend, and note what you can no longer live with. Is it his temper that you can no longer tolerate? Perhaps it is his lack of empathy? Get clear about the changes you need.

Second, be consistent with yourself and him.

A little change is not enough. Stop telling yourself that you can live with something you really cannot live with. Stop deceiving yourself as this will not serve you in the long run. Arguing and bargaining with him only leads to more conflict and less change.

Third, armed with conviction, let him know what must change.

Prepared to take a stand, and ready for pushback and greater consequences, let him know you must have change. Do not engage in argumentation. Don’t try to coerce or manipulate him into change. Let him know that you must have him engaged in counseling with you and this is the only acceptable path for change. Don’t be manipulated into thinking a little change is enough, or that you can do this without expert help.

Fourth, determine the consequences if he resists.

A boundary without consequences is not a boundary—it is a hope or a wish. Wishes and hopes have not garnered his respect. It is time for consequences, beginning with something simple and leading to something more severe. He will determine how harsh the consequences need to be—you simply affirm what you need. Have your list of consequences ready and rehearsed.

Finally, follow through with a sense of calm.

Knowing that what you want—his complete involvement in a change process—is reasonable and healthy, you must follow through. While this will likely be met with anger, resistance and even counter-threats, he will ultimately respect you and likely agree to counseling. This may take stopping behavior that enables the destructive aspect of the relationship, and could go as far as a temporary separation. Know that you are doing this for the ultimate good of your marriage.

In summary, marriage counseling is a challenging journey. You will need emotional support as you make changes that threaten you and your marriage. In the end, however, you will both be thankful you took whatever steps are necessary to bring about healthy change.

We’re available to help…

  • What Can We Help You With Today?

The Destructive Power of Thinking Errors

Fortunately, there are many thinking errors we can make in our marriage and survive.

thinking errorsWe can overreact in anger at times and receive forgiveness. We can miss an important anniversary and still be able to make amends. We can even experience the occasional unkind action and make it up to our mate.

There are other ‘mistakes’ however, that are not so easily forgotten. There are actions taken which, if they occur consistently, erode the very fabric of our relationship. These ‘thinking errors,’ what the 12 Step Program calls ‘stinkin’ thinkin,’ are corrosive. These ‘errors,’ over time, corrode trust, vibrancy and the very health of the relationship.

You may think I’m exaggerating to make such a statement, but our work at The Marriage Recovery Center has proven the horrific power of these thinking errors.

These actions are so corrosive because they are grounded in the primary Thinking Error—Denial.

Someone has said denial—the avoidance of taking responsibility for one’s action—as Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying to myself. Because I am lying to myself, I cannot nor will not fully own the damage of what I am doing to you. Hence, nothing changes and the destructive behaviors continue—eroding the relationship.

Here are some of the major ‘thinking errors’ that interrupt our ability to take responsibility. Judge for yourself how you see them impacting your relationships.

  1.  Denial: “I am not doing anything wrong. I have no problem.”
  2. Blame-shifting: “It’s not me that’s doing anything wrong. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault.”
  3. Victim Stance: “I’m getting a raw deal. Nothing ever goes my way. I’m getting the blame for everything.”
  4. Minimization/ Sanitizing: “Sure, I did something wrong, but it’s not that big of a deal. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
  5. Projection: “You are the one who has all the issues you’re blaming me about.”
  6. Excuse Making: “Yes, I suppose I did it, but I didn’t mean to do it. It certainly wasn’t my intention to hurt you. If it weren’t for _____ I wouldn’t have done it.”
  7. Power Play: “You can’t make me go to counseling/ treatment/ recovery groups. I’m not going to go and you can’t make me.”
  8. Black and White Thinking/ Extreme Thinking: “I never get any credit for anything I do. You’re always the one who gets everything you ask for.”
  9. Catastrophizing: “If you make me get help we’ll go broke for sure.”
  10. Grandiosity: “I know what I think and what I need to do. I don’t need any help. I’ve got a handle on things.”

Can you see the terrible damage that is done by even one of these thinking errors? 

Scripture tells us to…

Quotation marksBe alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5: 8)

I can think of no easier way for the Enemy to wreak havoc than through the destruction of our relationships by way of our ‘stinkin’ thinkin.’

How can we cultivate sober mindedness and avoid thinking errors?

Here are some suggestions:

Recognize your innate tendency to lie to yourself.  

Yes, that’s right. You must look candidly in the mirror and admit to yourself that you have ‘thinking errors.’ We all do and if you think you’re immune from these, you’re really in denial!

Ask for feedback from a trusted source. 

Yes, I know I’m asking a lot from you. This is scary business, but we must obtain feedback from someone who really knows us. Find someone who sees your shadow side, knows what you are like on your worst day and has your wellbeing in mind—trust that they would not tell you something to hurt you, but rather for your growth and welfare.

Own the full weight and damage of your ‘thinking error.’ 

Closely examine the ramifications of your ‘thinking error.’ Look at the ripple effect of how your thinking causes damage in your relationships. Feel the full impact of what you are doing and take responsibility for your actions. Sit with the pain of how you are thinking and how this impacts your behavior.

Replace your ‘thinking error’ with the Truth. 

A lie cannot exist side by side with the Truth. For example, if you have a tendency to minimize a problem, ask for the truth about a particular situation. Is ‘excess drinking’ really alcoholism? Is ‘problem shopping’ really an addiction to materialism? If your ‘thinking error’ is grandiosity, practice humility, deferring to your mate and allowing him/ her to make more decisions in your relationship.

Pray for the courage to change. 

At The Marriage Recovery Center, we encourage people to pray for courage and humility to change. We understand that change comes from a changed heart—and this requires the work of God in our lives. We understand that change comes from experiencing a ‘godly sorrow’ that leads to repentance. (II Corinthians 7: 10) We encourage practicing ‘living amends’—acting in direct opposition to the ‘thinking error.’ If you have blame-shifted, take responsibility. If you have minimized a problem, maximize the problem. If you have pushed your weight around emotionally, defer to your mate. There is no room for pride in the process of change.

In summary, there is no such thing as a small ‘thinking error.’

Even one ‘thinking error’ in a relationship can create monstrous problems. Healthy thinking leads to healthy relationships. We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please contact us to discover more information about this as well as the FREE eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreamsas my gift to you!Contact Us    

It Takes a Breakdown to Have a Break Through

“My husband is NEVER going to change! He keeps promising things will be different, but words are all I hear.”

Emotional Abuse | Marriage Recovery Center 360.490.5446I cannot even begin to tell you how often I hear this from women calling or emailing the Marriage Recovery Center.  Countless women continue to struggle in dysfunctional marriages because they feel completely hopeless to change the problems in their relationship.

The problem I find is that couples are content to be comfortably miserable in their relationship.  They are not happy at all BUT the man continues to function in his same old patterns, despite constant reminders that he must change, and the woman just gives in believing that “this is as good as it gets. I must get use to life this way.”

So you may ask…why don’t things change in dysfunctional relationships?


Here are some of the reasons why:

Non-existent boundaries – The most common problem I see is not putting boundaries around unacceptable behavior.  Therefore, nothing ever changes.  Words may be full of promises, but commitments are never kept.  Frankly if boundaries are not put in place…why should he change??

Inconsistent consequences – If boundaries are created and implemented, then the next breakdown I see is consequences are not enforced or not enforced consistently.  Women often feel mean as if they are “punishing” their husband with a consequence.  Therefore, the husband quickly realizes that his wife really is not serious about these boundaries.

Here is what I see as the solution:

Very clear request for action – Your husband must know exactly what you are asking for him to change.  You can begin with collaborating with him about what you are asking for.  Hopefully through this process you can both come to an agreement and hold him accountable to these changes.

Boundaries – if his commitment and his actions are not in alignment, then a boundary may need to be set in place.  A boundary around anger would sound like “I cannot tolerate being yelled at or being spoken to disrespectfully.”

Serious consequences – Consequences are always applicable to the boundary and typically progressive.   The first time the boundary is broken surrounding yelling, the consequence may sound like “I cannot continue to engage with you in your anger, I will be disengaging from you until we are both calm.”  The 2nd time becomes more serious “I cannot tolerate being spoken to in anger, I must have you leave for the night.”  The 3rd step is not for the faint at heart “You have broken my boundary around anger, and I have no choice but to ask you to move out until you show you can learn to work through your anger.”

This last consequence is when I start to feel some pushback from women I am counseling.

Yes, you may think it is odd to hear a Christian counselor suggesting separation as a consequence, but often there is nothing more powerful to create change.  In my marriage, I found that just communicating this last consequence to my spouse was enough to create an immediate change in his anger.  It really does work!  At the Marriage Recovery Center we often hear from incredibly desperate men who were just asked to leave their homes.  They always want to know “what do I need to do to get my wife back.” I know there may be tremendous fear of loss surrounding this extreme consequence, but please be assured that 99% of the marriages that we see result in a separation have a happy ending.  We see a separation as a purpose for reconciliation.  Honestly, it takes a breakdown to have a breakthrough in your marriage. Your spouse may need to experience life without you for a while to realize just how much he values you and your marriage.  At this point he will do anything he can to create change in himself so reconciliation is a possibility.

If you find yourself struggling with the same old dysfunctional patterns without any hope for change, please reach out to us at The Marriage Recovery Center.  We can help guide you in a plan for change.  We offer Skype, phone or intensive counseling to serve you. 
Contact Us Today

Are You In a Reactive Relationship?

The majority of the couples that come to the marriage recovery center are in a reactive state of mind.

2014-07-24_1320They’ve come to a place where they are so stuck in their position that feel they are right and their partner is wrong.

I see these couples as defensive, angry, stubborn, and downright self-righteous.

They act this way due to what is irritating them at their core, but are unaware of how to talk about these feelings.

They often believe that the only way for the marriage to change is if their partner changes.

As a therapist, I typically hear partners building a case highlighting how they personally are doing everything perfectly BUT their partner is a mess.

From my perspective, I essentially see two children in the midst of a tantrum standing in their own separate corners. Full of pride, they both refuse to take the first step in to compromise or collaborate with their mate.

This leads to both partners feeling unloved, uncared for, hurt, and dismissed. Many are ready to be done with their marriage.

Last week I was pleasantly surprised by a couple I work with periodically for tune ups.

The wife shared with me how she had been betrayed by her husband through an addiction, and her trust had been broken. However, the vast difference with how this client handled the betrayal compared to most couples, was in her attitude. She kept extremely calm when she clearly stated that her husband’s addiction must be resolved BUT she would be by his side while he struggled through it. She treated him with respect, kindness and compassion.

This wife showed the exact opposite of reactivity. She used kindness, grace, and forgiveness with her husband.

Fortunately, it created in him a repentant heart, a sincere apology, and deep connection between the two of them.

So you may be asking how you can turn from reactive to kind.

Here are some tips:

  1. Managing your emotions. Determine what is really bugging you? What are the feelings at the core of your irritation? What do you need to ask your spouse for to resolve this issue? Speak from a calm, clear voice.
  2. Know your value. Knowing who you are and what you believe in will create a strong conviction within you. You feel a strength rise up in you when you speak from your convictions.
  3. Having good boundaries. Be very clear with your spouse on what behavior you will and will lot tolerate. This includes what you will chose to do if your boundary is broken.4. Kindness is often speaking the truth in love. Your spouse may not like what you call him/her out on, but often he/she really needs to hear this truth to come out of denial.
  4. Refuse to enter into a conversation or remain in one that is angry, accusatory or unsafe. I challenge you to put aside your  pride and strive to practice humility.

By practicing these tips consistently you can create a rich, connected marriage.

If you are struggling with reactivity in your marriage, we can help. We offer phone or Skype coaching and intensive couples therapy at the Marriage Recovery Center in Hansville, WA.
Contact Us Today

Can Your Marriage Survive an Affair?

Have you experienced an affair in your marriage?

couple-fighting-on-couchDo you feel hopeless that your marriage will survive this trauma? Do you find yourself to be bitter and angry? If so, you are not alone!

We see many many couples at the Marriage Recovery Center who have just experienced an affair in their marriage.  We see both men and women who have been unfaithful, but for the purpose of this blog I will be referring to the husband as the mate who was unfaithful.

It is incredibly common to see a wife who comes to a Marriage Intensive with a lot of pent up anger and bitterness. She is so hurt and betrayed and has not learned what to do with all of these emotions. So in order to protect herself she becomes rigid, cold, and withholding, often withdrawing completely from her unfaithful spouse.

Another way of coping is to attempt to cause her spouse to feel the pain she is experiencing. This comes through constant jabs and painful arrows thrown at him about the affair. “How could you be so cruel?” “What kind of man does that to his family?” These comments leaves her husband feeling ashamed and hurt, typically leading him to retreat to a safe place far away from her. This way of coping causes total brokenness in the marriage.

So how can you heal from an affair in your marriage? Here are a few critical steps:

  1. Develop good boundaries – what is causing you stress that you must create security? Do you need to let him know that any contact with the other woman will not be tolerated?
  2. Communicate your feelings & needs – let your husband know what feelings you are struggling with. Are you feeling sad, betrayed, inadequate?

Tell him a soft but direct way.

  • What needs do you have from him?
  • A repentant heart when you share your feelings, taking responsibility?
  • A heartfelt apology

3. Let your spouse know how he can built trust again. Do you need total transparency? Passwords to his email, phone?
4. Stay connected to your spouse. Even with all the hurt and anger, try to sit and talk with your spouse.
5. If you are separated due to the affair, don’t move too quickly into reconciliation. Allow trust to be built and if there are areas you need to see your spouse make changes, allow enough time to see consistent change.

For your Partner, he can help you heal by:

  • Apologizing and taking responsibility for the pain he caused. – show ongoing remorse and repentance about the affair.
  • Listen intently & empathize with your wife’s feelings.
  • Work on creating a connection with your mate.
  • Communicate your needs. What needs were not being met prior to the affair?
  • Ask your mate to go to marriage counseling. You cannot repair this on your own.

If you are struggling with your spouse having an affair, we can help. We offer phone and Skype coaching as well as intensive counseling at our retreat center in Hansville, Wa.

Contact Us Today