Focus on the Inside

[inline:focus_logo.jpg]

Below are a collection of articles from the ministry of Focus on the Family. Their common sense approach works in the real world, in fact it prepares us to live in the real world. Read, ponder and use the information you've gained to make your life the best it can be each day:

Emotional Affairs - Dancing on the Edge
By Anonymous

Flirting With Danger, I thought it was innocent at the time.

She was a church staff member, so we spent a lot of time together. She'd sit in my office, and we'd talk. At times she told me about the difficulties in her marriage, and I counseled her. But I should have stopped her right there; I was filling a need I had no right to fill.

We never touched, we never kissed, we never even verbalized our underlying feelings. But there was a definite attraction, and I liked that vibe. It was fun.

For me it was all in my mind, but it progressed from there. I started thinking about her on weekends. I kept telling myself, I can handle this. It hasn't gone too far; it's okay. But it could have; the opportunity was waiting.

Occasionally, I got scared. I'd think, I don't want to do this. I have a great wife; I have a family. I don't want to go down this road. And while it was somewhat fun knowing I was getting away with something, it also gnawed at me. I knew it wasn't right.

Then one day I was on the phone in my office, when she came up behind me and pinched my rear end. That's when fear finally kicked my senses back into my head. "I'm going to talk to my wife about this," I told her.

Blowing the Whistle
I actually first spoke with the senior pastor of the church. Then I went home. I hadn't physically cheated on my wife, but my mind had already gone that direction. I was unfaithful in my thoughts and in not telling my wife what I knew was happening but didn't want to admit. I had to tell her now.

I had compromised my relationship both with the Lord and with my wife. I loved her (still do). In fact, there was nothing terrible in our relationship—I thought we had a solid marriage. This other woman had nothing to lose by entering into an extramarital affair. I had everything to lose.

What's really scary? I had a good marriage and I was still vulnerable. Imagine what might happen if someone's in a bad marriage!

It all came down to me being stupid and making a stupid choice, of enjoying sin and flirting with it.

Planning for "Never Again"
Life is experience. And I've learned a lot from the edge I tap-danced along.

First, you must admit to yourself your attraction to someone else. If you find that you're convincing yourself everything is okay, it's not. And that's the point. If you're not mature enough to blow the whistle on yourself, then you're heading straight for danger. You'll start hiding things—things you thought you would never do—and your prayer life will go down the tubes. You'll be tormented, standing before your congregation without a clear conscience. Justification is one of the strongest indications there's a problem.

Next, you must confess it. And you must change—that's non-negotiable. I often hear people confess, "I know what I'm doing is wrong, but . . ." and they continue dancing on the edge. In order to change, you have to cut off that relationship.

If you feel you cannot talk with your spouse about your thoughts or a situation, you set yourself up for trouble. You need to be honest—for both yourself and for her. Also, listen to your wife. Spouses are perceptive—often they're the first to tune in to danger lurking in the shadows.

On the other hand, be accountable to selected, trusted people, because there are times you can't just lay this kind of stuff on your wife. Yes, you need to be forthright, but you need to protect her, too. You don't want to continually discourage her and make her feel like chopped liver.

What's more, work on satisfying each other's physical and emotional needs, because it doesn't just happen. Any one of us is vulnerable when unmet needs might possibly be fulfilled somewhere else.

Above all, be careful. Guard your marriage and your mind. It will help keep you from waltzing toward the edge and stumbling over it.

This article first appeared in the Pastor's Family edition of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright ©2002, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Other Related Articles

Dealing with Depression

by Mark A. Sutton and Bruce Hennigan, M.D.

There is a sticky question many Christians struggle with: Is depression a sin?

This particular question is posed to me by more people than perhaps any other when trying to understand what is going on emotionally with themselves or with someone close to them. The situation isn’t helped by well-meaning Christians who don’t understand depression saying things like: “You just need to have more faith,” or “There must be sin in your life, or you wouldn’t feel like this,” or even “If you’d pray harder (read the Bible more, have a deeper walk with the Lord), you wouldn’t have this problem.” To someone who already feels guilty about everything, this just piles on even more guilt.

But are they right? Is depression a sin, or a picture of sin in our life? I answer that with an unequivocal no!

Depression can, in many instances, have a physical cause. So can alcoholism and several other things spoken against in the Bible. Follow me closely here: The tendency toward depression or alcoholism is not a sin; giving in to them, however, is a sin.

The alcoholic will probably get drunk when he drinks, so the Christian who is an alcoholic and wants to stay in God’s will must make sure he never takes another drink. Likewise, the person who has a tendency toward depression isn’t at fault if his or her emotions begin a downward spiral. However, how he/she responds to that downward spiral will determine if there is sin.

When I feel depression beginning to clamp its cold hands upon me, I do several things:

1. Above anything else, I make sure I’m still reading my Bible and praying. Depression often makes you want to do just the opposite, but:
* You have the power, in Christ, to do what God wills.

Say no to your emotions and yes to communion with God during these times.

2. I thank God for loving me and bringing me through the bout of depression. This is important. Both of these first two actions go against what I feel. My depression makes me want to stay away from everyone — including God. And it also makes me feel as if no one could really love me — including God. But in reading the Bible, praying to God, and thanking God for his love, I am saying that:
* God’s Word, not my present emotional outlook, is my authority.

In thanking God for bringing me through the depression, I am also exercising my faith in God and in his Word, precisely at the moment I don’t feel like doing it.

3. I try to keep from making any major decision. I’ve learned that life looks a great deal more bleak when I’m depressed. Therefore, any decision I make during this time is bound to be colored by a false sense of what’s going on in my relationships, my business and my family.

Taking these steps actually may allow me to have greater faith than many who never experience depression. That's because:
* I thank God for taking care of me and loving me even when I can't feel it or see it.

It that's not a biblical definition of faith, then I don't know what is! For example, look at these verses from the Bible. If, when depressed, you can trust God to take care of you and bring you through your bout safely, then you're exercising faith. If you can believe he loves you even when you don't feel loved, that's faith. In fact, perhaps the person fighting depression who trusts in God has the greatest faith of all! "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2). “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

So your depression is not a sin in and of itself. But how you respond to that depression will determine if you sin.

Let’s try an experiment. Perhaps, when you feel that horrible negative emotion coming on, you usually say something like: “Oh no, here it comes again. I’m in for a horrible time.” Next time, however, say this instead:

“Heavenly Father, here is an opportunity for me to show great faith and grow in you. May I be faithful to you during this time.” It might not stop the depression, but it can surely transform what it does to your life! And it can help you remain true to God even in the midst of emotional storms.

Strength for Today: The Disease Has a Cure

Imagine a world of darkness. In this world your senses are limited to sound, smell, taste and touch. For most of your life, you have spent every day crouched against a rough, stone wall, surrounded by the sound of a milling crowd. You feel the warmth of the sun as it shines on your face, but you cannot see it. And then a shadow falls across you, bringing welcome coolness. A voice from nearby asks the question you have heard so many times: “Who sinned that this man was born blind? Was it his fault or his parents?”

Paraphrased, you hear, “What did this poor, wretched fool do to deserve a life of misery? Where did he go wrong? What did his parents do that he should suffer like this? What sin in his life has brought him to this life of abject hopelessness?” Perhaps you have had similar thoughts regarding depression. After all, aren’t we meant to be happy and well-adjusted all the time? If we are unhappy, we must have done something wrong. In Jesus’ day a common conception existed that all disease could be traced to sin. The Savior of the world knew this was not true — and he was getting ready to prove it.

The young man mentioned above, of course, is the blind man from John 9. The questioners were Jesus’ disciples. Jesus Christ, with the divine knowledge of the Great Physician, spoke some of the most encouraging words of the Bible: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).

“What sin have I committed that has brought me depression?” Many people ask this question. Learn a lesson both from the Bible and from science. Let’s paraphrase Christ’s words and direct them toward you:

“What sin have I committed that has brought me depression?” Many people ask this question. Learn a lesson both from the Bible and from science. Let’s paraphrase Christ’s words and direct them toward you:

“Neither you nor your family sinned, but this happened so that the power of God might be displayed in your life.”

I can reassure you that depression is an illness. It is a disease with a physical basis. Depression is not due solely to spiritual problems. So get rid of the guilt trip and begin focusing on the cure!

We want to help you find the solution to your depression — the work of God that will illuminate your life and glorify our Creator.
Action Steps That Help

When you feel depression beginning to take hold of your life, try to do the following:

1. Make sure you’re still reading the Bible and praying. You have the power, in Christ, to do what God wills.
2. Thank God for loving you and bringing you through the bout of depression. God’s Word, not your present emotional outlook, is your authority.
3. Try not to make a major decision while in a depressed frame of mind.
4. Thank God for taking care of you and loving you even when you can’t feel it or see it. This exercises your faith and strengthens you.

Here are a few additional thoughts to keep in mind for those struggling with depression:

* At times, depression can relate to emotions that have been ignored or pushed away for years. Be willing to face them through Christ’s strength. As Matthew 5:4 says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
* Though not advisable in every situation, medication may provide needed physical help for people struggling with depression. Talk to a doctor about it.
* Reaching out for Christian counseling can provide support, help you address underlying causes of your depression, and help you develop a plan of action.

Taken from Conquering Depression: A 30-Day Plan to Finding Happiness, copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Sutton and Bruce Hennigan.

The Weapon that Depresses Depression

Depression doesn't make you a failure. Persevering through it makes you a strong Christian and a winner in God’s eyes.

by Mark A. Sutton and Bruce Hennigan, M.D.

Did you ever have a boxing clown? At some point in my boyhood, I got one for a birthday present. This inflatable toy had a round bottom and was painted to look like a clown. The idea was to hit it as often as you wanted. Maybe it was supposed to help you learn to box; if so, I was a miserable failure. In any case, this opponent was a pushover — literally. It never tried to fight back, never defended itself, never got mad at me. Always smiling and standing still, it presented a beautiful target I could pummel to my heart’s content. But a funny thing happened with the boxing clown. I lost every fight I had with it.

I was the one doing the punching and the knocking down. I was the one who should have won. But the clown had a secret. Because of its round bottom, it never stayed knocked over. No matter how many times I punched the clown’s lights out, it always came back upright. By the end of the fight, I was exhausted. Punched out and worn out, I was ready to quit. But my opponent, the clown, still stood there, smiling that infuriating grin at me. When I left the room, I sometimes imagined it raising its arms in victory behind my back — smiling all the while, of course.

Perseverance. After faith, it’s the strongest weapon we have with which to fight depression. It helps us break a deadly cycle of which we may not even be aware. And breaking that cycle produces some positive side effects: new, powerful habits that actually act as our allies.

How does the weapon of perseverance accomplish all this? First, let’s take a look at this deadly cycle.

When we notice depression’s arrival, what is our reaction? In my counseling and discussions with depressed people, I’ve discovered we initially react in one of two ways. Some of us are always caught by surprise. We never expect the depression to return again and can’t see it coming until it has completely surrounded us. Others of us know our depression is pretty regular; we understand its signs and can watch as it approaches and settles in.

That is the first stage of the cycle of depression. But whether we are surprised by its appearance or we see it coming, we often react in the same way to the cycle’s second stage, and this is the part that is most important — and deadly. Let me talk directly to you for a moment. After realizing you are experiencing a depressive episode, how do you react? If you are like many I’ve counseled, you give up. You throw up your hands and say, “Depression is here again. There’s nothing I can do about it.” And then you let the disease dictate how you will react emotionally. Black moods and periods of doubt control you until the depression leaves and the cycle, for the moment, is complete. Then you wait, without realizing it, for the next cycle to begin.

But what if you changed the cycle? Believe it or not, it is within your power to do so. Again, you may not be able to stop depression from descending on you, but you can choose how you will respond to it. I want to pound this into your thinking.

Here's where the weapon of perseverance delivers a mortal blow to your enemy. You simply tell depression: "I'm never giving up or giving in to you. You may continue to plague me, but I'll fight you with everything I've got. My emotions don't belong to you, and I refuse to let them be held hostage without a fight. You may knock me down, but I've decided to keep on getting up. And I'll fight you every time.

What does this type of attitude accomplish?

* It breaks your usual cycle. You no longer simply give up when depression hits you.
* The process of deciding to fight depression, even when you don’t feel like doing so, begins to give you more control over your emotions and helps you no longer feel like a victim.
* As you decide to fight depression every time it appears, you build confidence in yourself. In many cases this shortens the amount of time depression stays with you.
* Using the weapon of perseverance on a regular basis builds powerful habits in your behavior. Use it long enough and eventually you begin fighting depression when it appears without even realizing it!

Let me give you a word of encouragement. Even a little effort on your part each time is helpful. Even if you can’t successfully fight off depression this time, but begin trying to do so, you have made progress. Making the decision to do what you can each time will make you stronger. Perseverance pays off. Flash back to 1968. The Mexico City Olympics are taking place amid great fanfare. As the marathon contestants line up, spectators buzz about possible winners of the race that gave birth to the entire Olympic movement. Most of the attention focuses on Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, and rightly so; he will win the marathon. But he will not be the only winner that day.

With the crack of the starter’s gun, the contestants begin their quest for a gold medal. One of the runners, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania, finds himself trapped in the middle of some other runners several miles into the race. Unable to see well, he falls and hurts his leg horribly. He watches in anguish as the other racers continue. John Stephen Akhwari will not win the marathon on this day. He has come to Mexico City and failed…or has he?

Now flash forward to the end of the race. Wolde, the Ethiopian, has already won. An hour has passed, darkness is falling, and the last spectators are leaving the stadium. Suddenly their attention is drawn to the sounds of police sirens. The marathon gate to the stadium is thrown open, and, unbelievably, a lone runner stumbles into the stadium for his last lap. It is John Stephen Akhwari. Hobbling painfully on his bandaged leg, grimacing with every step, knowing he cannot win the race, he continues all the same. Finally he crosses the finish line and collapses.

Why, someone asked him, didn’t he stop after injuring himself? After all, there was no way he could win the race. Listen to John Stephen Akhwari’s response: “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race,” he said with dignity. “They sent me to finish the race.” Perseverance is a powerful weapon.

Let’s flash back two thousand years to another man who knew how to persevere. The apostle Paul was a man who devoted himself wholly, unselfishly, to God. But it certainly did not ensure him a life of pleasure and ease. You could say his life was maxed out with beatings, persecutions, and, to add insult to injury, multiple imprisonments. These prisons, I might add, had no weight rooms, color television or time off for good behavior. In addition, some of Paul’s peers criticized the apostle for getting himself into what they believed were embarrassing circumstances.

Paul, put in prison once more, could have given up. Instead, he had this to say: “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul knew God would not fail him. He believed that the Christian who stayed faithful, even in the tough times, would be ultimately blessed for his perseverance.

God has a special place in his heart for those who endure. Human power doesn’t interest him. Dynamic personalities and great people skills don’t impress him. He sees through smiles and designer clothes, looking for something more. “The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:18). If you’re giving the best of yourself to God and trusting in Christ to save you, then the heavenly Father’s eyes are on you. He blesses you every time you get knocked down by depression and then get up, still trusting God and still willing to live for him. Looked at in this way, depression does not make you a failure. Instead, it makes you a strong Christian and a winner in God’s eyes.

Even if depression keeps knocking you down, make the decision today to keep getting up. Let Paul’s creed also be yours: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Keep on standing.
Taken from Conquering Depression: A 30-Day Plan to Finding Happiness, copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Sutton and Bruce Hennigan.

When Your Spouse is Depressed

Here's how you can help your loved one out of the darkness of depression.

by Carolyn MacInnes

Tim and Sandra sit close together on their porch swing, holding hands. It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, they’d discussed selling their house, splitting their possessions and sharing custody of their three children. The couple explains that a common but treatable illness nearly destroyed their strong 12-year marriage.

"I remember the day it started," Tim says. "I walked into the kitchen one morning and Sandy was just sitting on the floor. She was still in her bathrobe, and her eyes were swollen from crying."

When Tim asked what was wrong, Sandra told him she honestly didn’t know. Their lives were good. They weren’t struggling financially or having problems with the kids. She knew there was no reason to cry, yet the tears returned every morning from then on. Her concentration began to slip as well, leading to mistakes that almost cost her a job she loved. Finally, Tim insisted she see a doctor.

"I sure didn’t like the diagnosis," Sandra explains, shaking her head. "I expected him to give me vitamins or tell me not to work so hard. I never anticipated what he would actually suggest."

After several tests, Sandra’s doctor told her he believed she was suffering from a depressive disorder. He explained that our bodies need to maintain stable levels of the chemical serotonin to function normally — but the receptors in Sandra’s brain were blocking its flow to certain areas. When he suggested she try an anti-depressant drug to trigger proper serotonin absorption, she refused.

"I left his office feeling conflicted," Sandra says. "Tim and I were both raised to believe that true Christians were happy, thankful people. I was convinced that my misery was caused by a lack of faith, not a medical condition. But truthfully, I wasn’t sure which option scared me more. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell Tim that the doctor had called my mental health into question."

Over the next few months, Sandra tried to bury her secret — but her sorrow was too pervasive to hide. Their frightened children began asking what was wrong with Mom.

In the meantime, Tim admits his concern turned to frustration. "I’d ask again and again what was wrong, but she never had an answer," he says. "Not only was I aggravated by my feelings of helplessness, I was angry the life I’d worked so hard to provide wasn’t enough to make her happy."

"And the more angry he got, the more he’d withdraw from me," Sandra adds. "Then I’d feel guilty and withdraw even more. We just kept drifting further apart."

Despite her efforts to pray during that time, Sandra admits she found it almost impossible to muster the strength or the words. She felt she was not only losing her mind and her family, but now even God had abandoned her.
Identifying Depression

Tim and Sandra’s story likely rings true for many couples. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five adults in America will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Women face these illnesses twice as often as men, but statistics show men are highly under-diagnosed due to an unwillingness to admit they’re struggling.

Stigmas and misconceptions often prevent those with depressive illnesses (which often include anxiety and panic) from getting treatment. For some, words like mental illness and therapy still evoke images of patients in strait jackets or neurotic movie characters with phobias of germs, elevators and their shadows. In reality, depression can be much less obvious. Even so, it still debilitates and destroys its victims if left untreated.

A few key signs of depression are:

* Daily sadness
* Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
* Restless, anxious or irritable behavior
* Trouble concentrating, focusing or remembering
* Excessive weariness and lethargy
* Sleeping or eating too much or too little
* Unexplained aches and pains
* Thoughts of suicide or death

If you recognize any of these symptoms persisting in a spouse for more than a few weeks, check with your family doctor.
Preparing Yourself to Help Your Loved One

Flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone next to you. In the same way, it’s important to prepare yourself before attempting to assist others when a spouse is depressed. Deep sorrow can be infectious, and it’s not uncommon for caregivers to develop symptoms of depression themselves. Guard against this possibility by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and staying in the Word.

Also keep an eye on your kids. Children are often vulnerable to a parent’s anxiety. One study indicates that 20% of 10-year-olds whose mothers suffered from depression were themselves victims within five years.

Don’t underestimate the value of caring friends and family at times like this. Let loved ones help you with day-to-day tasks, and allow them to listen to and pray with you. The surest way to intensify your struggle is to isolate yourself and your immediate family from those who love you.

Reaching Out to Your Spouse

When a care-giver understands that clinical depression is a genuine medical condition, he or she may actually feel empowered. It’s encouraging to realize there are a number of tangible ways to help a spouse who is depressed:

Do
Pray fervently with and for them.
Share meaningful Scripture verses.
Help them see that the family needs them to get well.
Listen; give credibility to their feelings.
Seek help for yourself and offer to see a therapist with them.
Encourage them to consider medication; research shows that 80% of those suffering from depressive disorders can be treated successfully with modern medications.
Show affection; encourage them to get out and do things with you.

Don't
Tell your loved one to just pray about it or make them feel like healing would come if they'd simply trust God more.
Make them feel guilty for the impact of their illness on the family.
Blame or criticize them.
Imply that they need help because they're weak.
Also, don't immediately exclude other family members from counseling. Sometimes, complex relational issues involving several family members can spark depression.
Expect medication to solve everything. Also, don't discount the need for prayer — and possibly therapy.
Let them continue in a pattern of sleep and isolation.

A Happy Ending

Once Tim and Sandra overcame their fears and misconceptions about mental illness, they began to counsel with their pastor each week. Sandra also returned to the doctor. Within a few months, she felt like herself again, thanks to a low dosage of a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI). The medication helped bring her serotonin levels back into balance. Their children were thrilled to see Mom smiling again.

The couple, now co-leading a mental illness support group at their church, discovered that they could survive depression with teamwork, education, empathy and a lot of prayer.

"The Lord has really blessed us by allowing this experience to bring us together rather than tear us apart," Sandra says. "When times were toughest, Tim decided not to give up on me — and that decision has radically changed our lives."

Decision Time

Are you ready to transform your marriage by putting the principles of love and respect into practice? by Carol Heffernan

As any married couple eventually discovers, romantic feelings don't exist everyday. It takes effort to keep a marriage strong, to keep minor disagreements from becoming major ones, to favor sweet words and tender glances over harsh comments and contemptuous glares.

"In Ephesians 5:33," Eggerichs says "God invites every married couple to make a conscious decision about how they appear to the other. A wife can feel unloved, but appear disrespectful; a husband can feel disrespected but appear unloving. This is why things get crazy! Our negative appearances work against us. God's Word protects us from that mistake."

He continues, "Really, all you have to do is learn this crazy cycle, and when you see the spirit of your spouse deflate, trust . . . that you’ve said something that appears unloving or disrespectful. Then go back and say, 'Did I come across as unloving/disrespectful? I'm sorry, will you forgive me?' That works almost every time."

Eggerichs has seen firsthand how marriages are transformed when husbands and wives put this fundamental concept into practice. To that end, he and his wife started the Love and Respect Marriage Conference, and the testimonials from those who have attended have been very encouraging.

At the conference, they illustrate in detail how to spell "love" to a wife and "respect" to a husband.

The conferences promote the same message as the Eggerichs' book: When unconditional respect and love are demonstrated through tone, facial expression and word choice, the spirit of our spouse re-opens.

"We're going to have conflicts over bedtime-type issues. We're going to get upset," Eggerichs says. "By dealing with marital conflict God's way, we can stop the crazy cycle before it starts. If things get out of control, we can halt the craziness. God's Word works."
Copyright © 2002 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Love and Respect in Action

by Carol Heffernan
Focus on the Family - Relationships and Marriage

Bringing New Life to Your Marriage
It often starts with something small. Maybe she arrives home from shopping to find that the kids aren't in bed yet. She thought her husband would have realized that the family needed to get up early, so the kids needed to go to bed early.

He didn't think it was a big deal. Besides, he was playing with them and they could take a nap the following day.

She is upset and communicates this to him, but before too long, she can tell that he is upset with her for being upset with him!

When she speaks up, he rolls his eyes. He thinks she’s about to nag, and she thinks he’s very insensitive. And so it goes . . .

Like many couples, they never saw it coming. But such seemingly minor conflicts are like termites, silently eating away beneath the surface, until one day the foundation crumbles.

Trouble is, this disagreement isn’t only about the children's bedtime. It goes deeper than that. According to author and marriage expert Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, the wife isn’t just looking for a resolution on bedtime. At a certain point, she begins to feel unloved and thinks, "If I mattered to him, he'd be more attentive and would definitely talk to me." The husband, meanwhile, interprets his wife’s "need to talk" as another situation that will result in him feeling disrespected as a person and thinks, "I can never be good enough."

"A husband needs respect like he needs air to breathe," Eggerichs explains, "while love is by far a wife’s greatest need."

Eggerichs, who co-wrote Motivating Your Man God’s Way with his wife, Sarah, says this concept is the secret to a better marriage. Without it, couples can easily get caught up in the constant back-and-forth of complaining and stonewalling, action and reaction. Eggerichs calls it the "crazy cycle."
Copyright © 2002 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Pornography

by Gene McConnell and Keith Campbell

Not everyone who sees porn will become addicted to it. Some will just come away with toxic ideas about women, sex, marriage and children. That kind of damage is bad enough. And porn isn't the only ingredient in addiction. Usually, those who become addicted have some kind of emotional opening that allows the addiction to really take root.

Some of you reading this will become addicted, like I was. The porn companies don't mind at all if you become completely addicted to their product. It's great for business. An addicted customer keeps coming back for more. And so they fill their porn with images that will excite you, arouse you and get the hormones flowing. You don't have to shoot up any drug with a needle to get addicted to porn — your body will make its own drugs just by looking at the pictures. Dr. Victor Cline says that sex and pornography can be a more difficult addiction to break than cocaine.

Five stages of addiction

1. Early exposure. Most guys who get addicted to porn start early. They see the stuff when they are very young, and it gets its foot in the door.
2. Addiction. Later comes addiction. You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You're hooked. You can't quit.
3. Escalation. After a while, escalation begins. You start to look for more and more graphic porn. You start using porn that would have disgusted you when you started. Now it excites you.
4. Desensitization. Eventually, you start to become numb. Even the most graphic, degrading porn doesn't excite you anymore. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again but can't find it.
5. Acting out sexually. At this point, many men make a dangerous jump and start acting out sexually. They move from the paper and plastic images of porn to the real world.

When I personally got to the "acting out phase," I started fantasizing about what it would be like to actually rape a woman. I finally tried it one night when I saw a woman who "fit" the scenario that porn had taught me to look for. I was lucky. Very lucky. I didn't go through with it. After being reported, arrested and spending some time in jail, I finally was able to begin the process of weeding out the lies in my life that porn had put there.

Other men aren't so lucky. I realize now that with just a little push, I could have gone over the edge. I could have raped that woman and then killed her to cover my tracks. That's how Ted Bundy got started. When the porn he was addicted to wasn't enough anymore, he tried the real thing — rape, and then murder. When he succeeded, he did it again. And again. Pornography addiction is very serious.
Are you addicted?

Some of you reading this may have already developed an addiction to porn. If you see any of the patterns I've described above in your life, you need to put the brakes on right now. Is porn beginning to control your life? You can't put it down — you keep going back for more? Perhaps you find yourself needing to see increasingly graphic pornography. You're masturbating more and more often. You're starting to take risks or act out physically for sexual thrills. If you see yourself at any point on this progression, you are in serious trouble, and you need to realize it — and get help.

Excerpted from the Dare to Dig Deeper booklet "Toxic Porn", by Gene McConnell and Keith Campbell. Copyright ©1996 Focus on the Family.

Heading in a New Direction

Surely someone this deeply addicted to pornography would be out of God's reach.

by Anonymous*

I am a family physician in Edmonton, Alberta. I am also a sex addict. I do not recall ever choosing to be the way I am, but my earliest pre-sexual memories are of watching “Tarzan” on television. I felt a deep, inexplicable thrill at the scantily clad women on this show, whose helplessness necessitated weekly rescue. I was drawn to these images of power and suffering — they filled me with a longing and excitement for which I had no name.

My fantasy world grew. In it, I was either all-powerful or utterly powerless, usually bearing with stoic bravery some horrific injury, cared for by a legion of concerned females. None of this is particularly shocking, but it forms the earliest tendrils of the addiction that would plague me all my life.

My self-esteem, which was never good to begin with, took a beating in the traditional give-and-take of childhood athletics and social popularity. Puberty heralded yet another battle I was ill-prepared to face — the ever-present popularity contest now turned to romance. My fantasy world became a safer refuge.

I discovered masturbation at the same time I discovered soft-core pornography. It had an almost drug-like effect on me. This powerful source of pleasure combined with my cauldron of insecurity, self-hatred and loneliness to create a firestorm of emotions I could neither understand nor control.

The jaws of addiction's trap were about to snap shut.

Exploring the tumultuous environment of big-city downtown in the late ‘60s was a heady time for a wide-eyed 13-year-old. Here, pornographic bookstores displayed a cornucopia of sexual behavior. I have read of the experience a heroin user has the first time he takes a “hit” — that's what I felt the first time I read a sadomasochistic book. I felt at peace. In reality, I had just taken an enormous leap toward losing my soul.

As I could scarcely afford these books — nor would they sell them to me — I stole them. The pleasure I attained from reading these paperbacks and masturbating soon ruled my life. They created a safe place, a pleasurable place, one to which I could flee whenever I wanted.

The final elements of sexual addiction were firmly in place. I had come to believe that I was a bad person, that no one could possibly like me if they really knew me, and that I could not rely on anyone else to meet my needs — the most important of which was sex.

To help cope with these beliefs, I entered a helping profession — a common pursuit for people like me. Medicine is particularly appealing with its blend of status, power and healing nature, and to my great satisfaction, I was quite good at it. Yet my addictive behaviors were never far away, and I returned time and again to violent pornography in times of stress or to relax.

My loneliness finally drove me to trust a woman — the one who became my wife. She was honest and had an infectious zest for life.

She was a Christian, I was not. We had vigorous arguments about religion and finally agreed to not talk about it, though I was keenly aware that in her faith she had something I did not. After our son was born, my wife attended church regularly with him. I stayed home and fed my addiction, without my wife's knowledge.

I had taken to creating my own violent, pornographic stories and would spend eight or more hours at a time huddled in front of my computer. With the advent of the Internet, I became adept at downloading the pornography I craved, often staying up all night doing this.

The hours I wasted were taking their toll, and my life became increasingly unmanageable. I loathed the filth I created, promising each time would be the last, and I lived in terror of being found out by my wife. I hated the lies that were necessary to cover up my detested secret life. I contemplated suicide, thinking that killing myself was preferable to living with the monster that was overpowering me.

When my wife insisted that I attend church on Easter 1992, I grudgingly agreed. And while sitting in church that Sunday, I heard a message of Jesus' love I hadn't heard before. At that moment, my 33-year-old soul battered and empty, I accepted Christ.

I believed that with my newfound faith and the prayers I was haltingly learning to utter, my 20-year-old behaviors were conquered. But they remained. I was, at turns, both angry with my new Friend for not removing them as I had earnestly asked and remorseful at breaking His rules I had pledged to obey. The fall backward convinced me that I was too unlovable and bad for even God to help. Suicide seemed the only way out.

At a men's retreat, a pastor courageously recounted his struggles with sexual addiction and pornography, as well as his 12-step recovery program. It was the first time I saw my problem as addiction.

I sought the pastor and told him about my twisted life. I sobbed with shame as I confessed all that I had done before God, recognizing I had nowhere else to turn. Once a week, my pastor friend-turned-sponsor helped me walk through my own 12-step program. Psalm 51 never seemed so alive to me as it did then.

I have been in solid recovery for more than two years. Granted, it's been the hardest thing I have ever done, but my marriage is deeper, my faith in God a joy, and I am a far better doctor than I was before. In fact, I find myself reaching out with compassion to addicts, people I previously did not understand. Their shattered lives, healed with Christ's love, are an ongoing source of wonder for me.

The diagnosis of sexual addiction is conspicuously missing from the DSM-IV and is not entirely accepted by current, secular psychiatry. But anyone can become sexually addicted. Intelligence, social standing, even medical knowledge are no protection against this soul-destroying disease that knows no boundaries.

There is, however, hope — a well-traveled pathway out of hell.

I know.

I've walked it.

*Due to the nature of this testimony, Physician has agreed to keep in confidence the identities of those involved.

How to Confront Children Using Pornography

No parent wants to think about his child viewing pornography, but it often happens.

by Rob Jackson, MS, LPC, LMHC, NCC

No healthy parent wants to think about his child viewing pornography, but it often happens. Some researchers have stated that the average age of exposure to pornography is down to eight. Before the days of the Internet, children were typically between the ages of eleven to thirteen when they began by viewing soft-core pornography found in magazines like Playboy.

Today’s child lives in a culture where hard-core pornography abounds. Our children are being seduced daily, and we need to bear this fact in mind whenever we have the occasion to redirect them away from pornography.

It is also extremely important that parents not direct all their efforts toward their sons at the expense of their daughters. Pornography and other sexualized media can adversely affect girls as well as boys and often leads to significant damage in their ability to form healthy relationships as an adult.
The goal

We want to be intentional parents. It’s our privilege and responsibility to educate them about sexuality. We want to begin early, and continue throughout their time with us in the home.

The ultimate goal for our children’s sexuality is that they will be able to see the dynamic interplay between sexuality and spirituality. As Christians, we want to help them understand, for example, that sexual intercourse is an act of love shared between a husband and wife. This sacred act symbolizes the spiritual union that will occur between Christ and His bride, the Church, upon His return to earth. We hope our sons will see themselves as a type of Christ as they relate to their wives, and that our daughters will see themselves as a type of the church as they relate to their husbands. What we model today in our marriages will likely reproduce itself in our children’s marriages.

By helping our children to see the big picture about the sanctity of sex, we are better prepared to confront the problem of pornography when and if it occurs in our children’s lives.
Do you and your spouse share the same core values?

Ideally, parents will share the same core values that promote sexual purity. This unity will facilitate your child’s recovery. On the other hand, if a child’s parents are divided about pornography, that child’s rehabilitation will be more difficult.

A child’s repetitive involvement with pornography can be a symptom of an unhappy home. Once the child’s issues begin to surface, his parents may benefit from marital therapy if they continue to be at odds on pornography in general or fail to agree on how to facilitate their child’s recovery.

Before you start beating yourself up, however, any exposure to pornography can harm children—even otherwise healthy children. The point here is not to blame parents but to help them identify any problems that may be negatively affecting their children’s understanding of sexuality or recovery
Did my child view pornography intentionally?

I’m convinced that children are victims of a covert form of sexual abuse1 whenever they are confronted with sexually provocative materials. With this in mind, our children need us to be healthy advocates for their well-being – even if we must confront their willful exposure to porn.

If a child has been found with pornography, it’s important to not jump to conclusions. A harsh, impulsive interrogation will most likely just shut down your child. An unhealthy shame often leads to more acting-out with pornography.

You will want to learn how your child found pornography. For example, did someone introduce your child to pornography? Mental health professionals recognize the power differential that occurs as result of age, and if the person who introduced the pornography was older by three or four years, it constitutes a type of sex abuse.2 These incidents should be reported to local authorities.
Was this my child’s first exposure?

It will also be important to learn if this was his first exposure to pornography. The frequency of exposure matters, as a child becomes increasingly desensitized over time. As desensitization occurs, a child typically begins to seek a greater frequency of pornography, and a harder or more severe quality. Greater frequency and a shift to hard-core pornography are indicators that the brain has begun to seek more stimulation, which can lead to addiction.

If you learn that your child has developed a habit of viewing pornography, it will be important to seek the services of a specialist who is trained to facilitate recovery.
Just exactly what did my child see?

What types of pornography did he see? Sadly, with the Internet a child can be exposed to a wide range of sexual perversions in seconds. If your child has an e-mail address, chances are he or she is being exposed to pornographic e-mail. One recent study found that 47 percent of school-aged children received porn spam on a daily basis. This study also found that as many as one in five children open the spam they receive.3 It will be important to learn about the types of pornography that your child viewed. For example, was the pornography heterosexual or homosexual? Was it limited to body parts or did it include sex acts? Was sexual violence a part of the pornography, and did it include bestiality?

Many parents will seek the help of a therapist at this point. Wisely, they want to safeguard their roles as parents, and avoid harming the relationship by making the teen feel interrogated or ashamed as they ask such difficult questions. The therapist can also delicately approach the job of ascertaining to what extent he or she has been exposed to more severe types of pornography, without inadvertently planting ideas the teen has never even imagined.

Regardless of what was viewed, it will be more important to rehabilitate your child than to merely correct or punish him.
How can you prevent future occurrences?

Frankly, there is no guarantee that even the best parent can prevent his child’s exposure to pornography. As with parents of any age or culture, we seek to do the best we can with the resources we have. Should another incident occur, it will be another teachable moment where you restate the precepts and principles that guide us toward wholeness.

Fortunately, the probability of future occurrences can be diminished by taking a four-pronged approach.

Behavioral. Behavioral approaches attempt to prevent a scenario from developing in the first place. The house and grounds, for example, should be purged of all pornography. Media should be carefully screened for “triggers” that serve as gateways to acting-out. If the problem occurred with the Internet, a filter can be one of your strategies, although it can never replace parental supervision and involvement.4 Other common-sense approaches include moving the computer to the family room where others can easily view the screen, limiting the time on the computer so that no one is alone on the Internet, and developing a mission statement that directs the family’s the use of the computer and the Internet.

Cognitive. Pornography is propaganda and generates destructive myths about sexuality. Once exposed, it will be critically important that a comprehensive sex education gets underway, if it has not already been initiated. The child will need to learn what and how to think about sexuality. More than mere behaviors, parents will want to communicate the core values of sexuality, the multifaceted risks of sex outside of marriage, and their ongoing compassion for what it must be like to grow up in this culture.

Emotive. Sex is inherently emotional. Premarital sex has even been linked with codependency, where at least one person becomes compelled or addicted to be in relationship with another. The youth culture would lead you to believe that sex is not necessarily emotional for them – don’t you believe it. Sexual relations of any type bond the bodies, minds, and spirits of two individuals. At the conscious level, this attachment is largely emotional. Our children need to understand that emotional attachment is often involuntary, and especially when the relationship has been compromised sexually.

Spiritual. At its core, sexual integrity comes down to a spiritual commitment. The Christian message of how Christ loves His bride, the Church, is our inspiration. The prohibitions and consequences of sexual sin are secondary to the intimacy that one experiences in obedience to God. Our children need to see how our lives are different because of His love. With confidence, we can share with them that God’s true love will empower them to avoid the trap of pornography.
Has your child’s exposure to pornography triggered you?

A child’s exposure to pornography often triggers a parent’s unresolved issues. It may be that a mom will be reminded of sex abuse in her past, or a father will be reminded of his own struggles with pornography and other sexual sins. Because these kinds of memories can be painful, coping with a child’s exposure to pornography can become even more difficult. For these reasons, family therapy may be particularly helpful.
A final thought

If we really believe that sin is a powerful barrier between our child and God, we will move past a mere “sin management” approach to mentor them into a loving relationship with us and, more importantly, with Him. Wherever pornography or sexual sin is found, whether in the lives of our children or in our own, we can surrender ourselves and those we love to the greater care and compassion of our Father. His purity remains and cleanses us.

Rob Jackson is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice who specializes in intimacy disorders, including sex addiction and codependency. He also speaks nationally on a variety of topics, including intimacy with God and family. www.ChristianCounsel.com* Copyright © 2004 Rob Jackson.

1 Sex abuse can occur without physical touch. The brain is the most important organ that responds to sexual stimulation.
2 Sex abuse can be distinguished from child play whenever the power differential of three or four years of age exists between the two children. The older child will be more experienced and sophisticated, while the younger child will be more vulnerable and naive.
3 “Symantec survey reveals more than 80 percent of children using e-mail receive inappropriate spam daily,” Business Wire, June 9, 2003.
4 Internet filters are effective, but not perfect. For children and adolescents, a combination of a filter and an accountability web application like Covenant Eyes is better. If one willfully and repeatedly attempts to get around a filtered Internet, the computer is like a “Skinner box” which actually reinforces the compulsion to find more pornography.

I know What You Did Last Night

Ken's not the only one whose problem is now public — he's part of a trend identified at several Christian college campuses.

by Steve Watters

Ken* struggled to adjust to the dorm scene his freshman year. Guys dropped by his room all the time, but not to see him. In fact they ignored him as they hung out with his roommate who seemed to be adjusting just fine. Ken hoped to simply get by — going through the motions of college and often bypassing the social scene around him. At this tough time, pictures of naked women seemed to be faithful friends. When he felt lonely or frustrated, he knew exciting images were only a few clicks away on the Internet. The rush they provided dulled the drudgery of sitting in class and the awkwardness of social time between classes.

Ken knew it wasn't right. He struggled with pornography throughout high school and going to a Christian college didn't change things, but he thought it was just a private little habit he'd have to work on. Until his habit was exposed. Some guys on his hall — the same ones he hadn't been able to fit in with — caught him in the act. They spread the word and seemed to enjoy the embarrassment it caused him. It made him mad. He denied viewing the porn even though he had been caught. He lost his temper and started pushing people around. When the pushing led to a fight, Ken got kicked out of the dorm.

Out from the shadows

Ken's not the only one whose problem is now public — he's part of a trend identified at several Christian college campuses. Sixty-eight percent of the guys surveyed at five religiously affiliated schools recently said they had intentionally looked for porn online.2 In that survey by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, 10 percent said they viewed porn frequently and five percent thought they had a problem with it.

The wiring of Christian colleges for Internet over the past few years pushed the issue into public view. School administrators can no longer deny a porn problem when they review logs of campus Internet activity filled with porn sites or watch late night spikes in telecom demand as students plug their modems into dorm room phone jacks.

Additionally, campus pastors and counselors can't ignore the problem as more and more students come by telling how their old smut habits were accelerated via the convenience and affordability of Internet porn.

Talk about porn on the campus of a state school and students will say, "What's the big deal? It's not hurting anybody." Christian students usually know better. The same survey that looked at porn exposure on campus also asked about attitudes. While a majority of those interviewed had seen porn, they also agreed on three facts: Porn can be addictive, porn hurts relationships, and viewing porn is a sin that damages relationship with God.

So that means a lot of Christian students have a gap between their beliefs about pornography and their behavior. Like Paul, they do the things they don't want to do and are not able to do what they would like to do. Recognizing this gap, many Christian colleges now install filters on their Internet service, but they also go the next step and try to help students do the equivalent of installing a filter on their hearts. "This is a problem that can't be solved with technology alone," says David Tilley, Vice President of Student Life at Lee University in Tennessee.

Lee, along with Taylor, Wheaton, Biola and several other schools now look to special chapels, accountability groups, and innovative dorm programs to address sexual purity and to provide guys like Ken with a safe place to confess their struggles. Their effort is paying off. During a recent revival at Biola University, several students confessed their Internet porn problem and were finally able to work towards freedom from a lifelong struggle.

A Longing for Intimacy

Like those at Biola, many students have discovered that confession can break the cycle of shame driving their porn habit. "What drew me in deeper to pornography was the secrecy, shame, and guilt that is usually associated with it," says Brad* who struggled throughout college. "I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about my problem, and this began to snowball. The deeper I became involved in pornography, the harder it was to climb out."

Here's how the cycle works. Whether they recognize it or not, guys like Ken and Brad need relational intimacy — they need for people to know them and like them. Early on, however, they realize that relationships can be awkward and complicated. Meanwhile, their needs are still strong and they see that pornography can at least give them some sense of satisfaction without all the complications of human relationships. Now they have a secret — a dirty little habit they don't want anyone to know about. They still need intimacy, but they think, "if anyone knew what I did last night, they wouldn't love me." And so they build walls that make it even harder to be known and loved.

Guys aren't known for sitting around and talking about an underlying need for intimacy. More often they can be found in testosterone-fueled conversations about the more physical aspects of sexuality. But intimacy — that experience of being known and loved — is a powerful need that nevertheless drives sexual desire. That's why the act of intercourse was once described as "being known" (as in "David took her into his tent and knew her.")

But who is "knowing" anybody when a guy stares at an airbrushed image on a computer screen? The tragedy is that pornography pretends to meet a need for intimacy while systematically making intimacy impossible. In his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, Dr. Gary Brooks explains that pornography erodes a man’s ability to relate to a woman in an intimate and honest way because it "pays scant attention to [his] needs for sensuality and intimacy while exalting [his] sexual needs."

An image of a woman without her clothes creates sexual excitement, but disconnected from marital closeness, it fails to deliver the closeness and oneness that complement visual stimulation. C. S. Lewis paints a great word picture for this in Mere Christianity. "You must not isolate [sexual] pleasure and try to get it by itself," he says, "any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again."

Worried that his porn habit had damaged his sexual appetite, a student named Tyler* vowed he wouldn't take a porn problem into his marriage. It wasn't easy, though. His commitment required him to fight back years of experiencing sex as a selfish and controlling act through pornography and masturbation and to replace it with a selfless and intimate view of sex in the context of serving his wife. "Marriage won't cure a porn addiction, so don't wait until then to address it," Tyler says, "It isn't fair to your future wife and it shortchanges the relationship that God has for you."

The notion that intimacy heightens sexuality even made it to the hip and worldly pages of Men's Health magazine recently. In a surprisingly critical look at Internet porn surfing, the writer questioned the value of sexual pleasure that is disconnected from a committed and intimate relationship. One of his better quotes comes from Carl, an oceanographer, who says, "It is a constant battle to remind myself, when arousal material is so easily accessed, that to attain a higher level of real sexual fulfillment takes intimacy."

One concept Men's Health magazine probably won't tackle, however, is the idea that real intimacy begins with God. In a fallen world, anyone who desires to be known deeply and loved deeply will inevitably be disappointed by his or her relationships. Only God can know you and love you completely. Think about that. He's the only person who sees you around the clock and knows your every thought. He sees all the good things in you that you want the world to see, but He also sees all the bad stuff you want to hide. And remarkably, He loves you unconditionally.

In response, God asks that you love the people around you in the same way He loves you. Instead of being focused on having your needs for love and intimacy met by others, God calls you to receive His love and then focus on loving others. So what it comes down to is this. Pornography promises something like intimacy and then cheats you of real intimacy twice. First it pushes a wedge between you and God — the only one who can know and love you completely. And secondly it gets you so focused on your own desires that you are unable to know and love anyone else in an intimate relationship.

C.S. Lewis provides another illustration offering a clear distinction between the brief and counterfeit pleasures of pornography compared with the eternal and abundant promises of intimacy with God. "We are half-hearted creatures," he says, "fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slums because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea." His next line is the clincher: "We are far too easily pleased."
Copyright 2000 Steve Watters.

* Not his real name
2 The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families conducted this survey among 857 college students and released the results November 13, 2000. The five colleges involved asked not to be identified. The survey can be found online at www.nationalcoalition.org*.

The Dangers of Pornography

Millions are lured into the dangers of pornography through the internet pornography’s easy accessibility, accompanied by the perception of privacy and anonymity. Cyber porn is highly addictive and extremely detrimental to intimacy in a marriage.

With over 95% of viewers being male, porn’s effect on intimacy is complicated since it is easy for wives to underestimate its bad effects. As a barrier to intimacy, habitually viewing pornography sets up formidable walls between couples: guilt, unrealistic sexual expectations, addictive behaviors, and the erosion of trust, to name just a few.

Consider the following stats on porn*:

* Pornographic websites: 4.2 million (12% of total)
* Daily search engine requests for porn: 68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
* Daily porn emails: 2.5 billion (8% of total emails).
* Internet users who view porn: 42.7%
* Websites offering illegal child porn: 100,000
* Monthly Internet Porn Sales: $4.9 billion
* Every second: 28, 258 internet users are viewing porn
* Every 39 minutes: a new porn movie is created in the United States

  • (*Stats are by Jerry Ropelato at Internet Filter Review.)
  • Here are just a few of the dangers of pornography:

    1. Addiction:
    The experience of sexual arousal can be intense when viewing pornography, and as a result, an addiction can be very easily formed. To respond to the body’s urges for “another hit” reinforces a habit that becomes extremely difficult to break. The combined physical and psychological responses to pornography make it “the crack cocaine of sexual addiction”.

    Addiction itself develops through progressively dangerous stages: addiction, escalation, desensitization, and then acting out sexually. The dangers of pornography are evident with every stage more destructive than the one before.

    2. Destruction of Intimacy:
    Intimacy is based on trust and commitment. The dangers of pornography can be seen as a constant erosion of those values and qualities. Almost without exception, husbands keep their addiction to porn a secret from their wives. Over the long term, the results are guilt and isolation: the husband retreats emotionally and finds himself in a barrenness of soul. He has lost any intimacy that he was experiencing with his wife, and has discovered that pornography initially excites but, without fail, disappoints.

    Sex without intimacy is hollow and futile. Yet within the framework of intimacy, sex is an awesome way for a husband and wife to connect emotionally and physically: it has the ability to provide true intimacy, joy, and sexual satisfaction!

    3. Decreased Excitement and Satisfaction:
    Research has shown that repeated exposure to pornography not only results in a diminished sexual arousal but also a decreased satisfaction with the sexual partner and the partner’s sexuality.

    4. Despair:
    The dangers of pornography come with a hidden price tag! Many men involve themselves in porn to try to fill some need, or simply out of a curiosity—and then quickly discover they are being controlled by a destructive habit. By this stage, intervention from the outside is usually necessary. Confiding in a trusted friend or counselor is the first step of the journey to become free. Unfortunately for men who try to hide their addiction, there is a spiraling dynamic of guilt, emptiness, isolation, and perverted thinking that takes place. The end of such a spiral is despair.

    5. Warped Thinking and Desensitization:
    Pornography leaves the impression that sex is unrelated to love, commitment or marriage; and that irresponsible sex has no undesirable penalties. Desensitization of rape as a crime, misconceptions about the popularity of certain sexual practices, and a decrease in the care of female sexuality are additional effects of repeated viewing of pornography.

    The dangers of pornography lead to men finding more than they bargained for when starting down the path of cyber porn. For those men looking for freedom from this addiction, help is available! First, a man must recognize his sin, and turn to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness. With this awareness of forgiveness, he needs to enter into accountability relationships with other Christian men who have also found freedom over pornography. The dangers of pornography can be overcome, and a man once ensnared by cyber porn will be able to experience a new life of intimacy with his wife.

    Source: The Intimate Couple Website

    Relational Needs

    Men and Women differ when it comes to their deepest relational needs. by Carol Heffernan

    The Bible states in Ephesians 5:33 that husbands are to love their wives, and wives are to respect their husbands. Seems easy enough, right? But this commonly cited verse makes a point that's often overlooked, a point that is central to the crazy cycle: Men and women differ when it comes to their deepest relational needs.

    If a husband's deepest need (respect) and a wife's deepest need (love) are fulfilled, their relationship is able to flourish. But when these needs are unmet, the cycle begins.

    So, why this craziness? When a woman feels unloved, Eggerichs explains, she reacts in a way that may seem disrespectful to her husband. He then reacts to this disrespect in ways that feel unloving to his wife. The more she complains and criticizes, the more he shuts down and stonewalls.

    "The message she's trying to send is that she feels unloved at that moment," Eggerichs says. "But she will react in very negative ways that, in the male arena, feel disrespectful. She isn't trying to be disrespectful, but is feeling unloved. Sadly, he may not decode that."

    So, how do you stop the "crazy cycle" once it's started? Eggerichs says it's as obvious as it seems: Mutual understanding begins when wives respect their husbands and husbands love their wives. His goal is to help couples better understand how to do that, putting an end to their crazy cycles.
    Copyright © 2002 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.