Counseling and Coaching

The purpose of both counseling (mainly remedial, although can be preventive) and coaching (preventive and proactive) is to assist people in identifying their hidden resources and releasing these to their full potential in order that the individual may achieve everything that they desire in life - physically, emotionally, financially and professionally. To enable them to recognise the path they want to take and the aims they wish to fulfill, and then to equip them with the knowledge, skills and means by which they will accomplish these aims.

The goal is NOT to have any individual come to rely on the coach or counselor, but to help all people to be what they WILL to be. We invite you to the challenge.

For an appointment, please contact
Information@BudapestResources.com

Feeling Tired, Fat and UnSexy?

By Dr Jill Ammon-Wexler
Pioneer Brain/Mind Researcher

Many today are complaining of feeling sad and tired, struggling with weight gains, and suffering from low sex drives. There's one common culprit behind all of this -- Stress!.

Here’s how it works: When you are mentally or physically stressed, your adrenal glands create a natural hormone called cortisol. Cortisol has an enormous effect on all of the systems of your body.

Feeling Tired?
If your cortisol is too high or too low, the chemistry of your brain is altered. Stress-related cortisol imbalances cause fatigue in several ways.

* Because cortisol is designed to keep you alert in times of stress, it can cause insomnia and resulting chronic tiredness.
* Your adrenal glands can become exhausted from the constant demands placed on them to produce endless amounts of cortisol. They then produce too little cortisol – which results in chronic fatigue.

Gaining Weight?
The excess cortisol caused by stress causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate. Since the brain’s primary fuel is sugar (glucose), any imbalance in blood sugar will cause you to crave sweets and carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes, and pastries.

Sound familiar? This is the source of “stress eating.”

Plus when your adrenal glands are busy pumping out cortisol in response to stress, they can’t adequately fulfill some of their other functions. For example: Stressed adrenals can’t produce aldosterone – a hormone that regulates your body’s mineral content. This means you might be low on magnesium, which will cause you to crave chocolate ... or salt in the form of chips, olives, or other salty processed foods.

Got a Low Sex Drive?
Unbalanced cortisol levels lead straight to a lower level of sexual energy, desire, and performance. There are several reasons for this.

Because your adrenal glands are so consumed with making cortisol, they will either get lazy about producing sex hormones -- or your production of sex hormones will become suppressed because sex and the survival-related "fight-or-flight" response don’t go together very well (and survival will always come first).

If your body is in a chronic stress response mode, stopping to have sex is unlikely. Stress prepares your body to fight or run, not make love! And since unbalanced cortisol levels can also cause insomnia, depression, and fatigue – the likelihood of feeling perky and sexy is also pretty slim.

The Common Solution
The sources of stress in your life are unlikely to simply go away. That is a fact. But if you ARE feeling tired, fat and unsexy – there is something you CAN do. The Quantum Brain Gym is packed full of proven-effective immediate solutions to bust your stress, and help your brain learn to manage it more effectively.

These enjoyable solutions are as close as your computer – and can perk up your brain cells, and help you control stress so you can break that painful "fat, tired and unsexy cycle." Come get relaxed, lean and sexy.

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"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
~~ Albert Einstein

Coaching Facts

Did you know that:

* There are an estimated 40,000 coaches practicing in 70 countries worldwide
* The four leading countries in the coaching profession are: United States, England, Japan and Australia
* In the UK the Coaching Profession is growing at a rate of 20% per year
* 70% of coaches work primarily by telephone, with a national or international client base
* 10% of coaching falls into the realm of executive coaching
* Over 70% of coaches world-wide are female
* 51% of those hiring coaches are women
* The average age of coaches range between 40 and 55

Executive and Celebrity Life Coaching Services

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Albert Einstein once said that "Insanity is repeating the same actions, over and over, again and again, and expecting different results."

Executives and celebrities have special needs. Because of their status there are heavier demands imposed on their lives. There are also significant trust issues that stem from the same status -- whom to trust. My services are provided in the strictest confidence to you either personally or by telephone when YOU need help.

As a leader, you have the opportunity to change your surroundings/organizations by simply changing yourselves, learning to enhance and expand the abundant skills you already possess. Make no mistake, however, coaching is challenging work - but you have what it takes. I will help you focus and bring these to the surface where they may once again become a reliable assets to you..

Upon our initial meeting, which will take the most time - ideally, this should take place face-to-face - we will take a brief review of your life; assess personal and professional satisfaction; take a skills and personal strengths inventory. Based upon this information in the future we will develop a personal life plan for you together; establishing long term goals and steps toward achieving them. Follow-up reviews take place periodically (weekly or monthly basis).

Read the following pages to help you understand the opportunity offered to you to reclaim a full life in the midst of the jungle that everyday life had become.

Choose from: Life Coaching (Personal Coaching, Business Coaching, Leadership Coaching, Spiritual Coaching, Mentor Coaching, Executive Coaching, Career Coaching, Relationship Coaching, Corporate Coaching, Success Coaching)

There is no reason to hesitate -


get in touch today
and begin feeling better almost immediately. Services are provided in either English or Hungarian.

-- Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

-- Reasons To Hire a Coach

-- Who Benefits from Life Coaching

-- Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

-- Rates and Payment

-- Confidentiality

"You can do what you want to do; your desire to do it is PROOF that you have within you the power to do it." -- Wallace Wattles

Life Coaching Services - Delivery Methods and Rates

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As a vessel most easily sails into a calm harbor, I am committed to you achieving positive and lasting results, making your life a calm harbor able to receive. You will notice changes quickly, but it will take time and effort from both of us to make the changes second nature.

Individual sessions in person, by telephone or via online messenger/chat program (by prior appointment). I see my role as your mentor/helper to work towards health and wholeness on a mental, emotional and physical level using my skills and experiences and if necessary, in conjunction with the services of other service providers such as:

* Reflexology
* Massage
* Relaxation and Meditation

Single Coaching Session

You are welcome to use a one-time coaching session if you have something very specific that you would like to work on and you are sure that one session will be enough. A single telephone or personal coaching session costs €75 for one hour. This includes a comprehensive, personal summary of the session which is sent to you by e-mail within 48 hours.

Monthly Coaching Package

For a potentially more dramatic and long lasting result, consider a discounted monthly package at just €250 for 4 telephone/Skype sessions. Each session lasts up to an hour and includes a comprehensive e-mail summary which you will receive within 48 hours along with any relevant resources or reading/learning materials.

Telephone/Skype and Online Life-Coaching is often a better option for you.

When you receive counseling or life-coaching services in person you have to make an appointment, commute to the appointment and stay and pay for the whole hour. Unless you take detailed notes or record the session you are very likely to miss something that was said or forget some of the advise you paid good money for.

With the online version of this service when you need assistance you simply send an e-mail or make an appointment for a messenger chat. You can do this when you feel like it and when you have time. Your issue may only require a quarter of an hour of time and that is all you should have to pay for.

Because online coaching is done in writing you can go back and re-read it and be sure you have not missed anything. This is a very important benefit to you because when you are asking a question you are often not in the place to receive the answer. You are in the place of having a problem and although you are seeking a solution, you often just want someone to hear you and be understanding.

We often use the telephone or do sessions via online chat. For this you will need to make an appointment, but you still only pay for the time you use. Due to its real-time interactive nature this option can quicken the process of getting the answers and guidance you need. I keep a log of these sessions so you can go back and refer to them again.

-- Assignments - You will be given assignments to complete and turn in via email. I will comment on them via email.

-- My energy and attention. This is a very personal service and I spend time sending you encouragement and guidance of how best to assist you in becoming all that you can be.

Please Note: I would rather over-deliver services to you and see you succeed than have to refund your money or have my reputation tarnished.

For further information, or to arrange a complimentary coaching call, then feel free to contact me here or by telephone on + 36 70.347.4221.

Why Hire a Life Coach?

-- Executive and Celebrity Life Coaching Services

-- Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

-- Reasons To Hire a Coach

-- Who Benefits from Life Coaching

-- Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

-- Rates and Payment

-- Confidentiality

There is More Left in the Tube

Our biggest breakthroughs often occur when
we think there's nothing left in our tube. By Jeff Keller

When I shave each morning, I use shaving cream that comes out of a small "travel size" aerosol can. The can is only about three inches high. I'd been using that little can for several weeks, when I realized the can was getting very light. I immediately thought, "Can't be much more left in here." I was just about to throw it in the wastebasket when I figured I could eke out another shave or two.

Much to my amazement, the shaving cream kept coming out day after day after day. I ended up getting 19 more shaves from that little dispenser! And to think that I was just about to throw the can away.

I'm sure you've experienced the same thing with a tube of toothpaste or shampoo. It looks like the tube is just about empty, but you keep folding the tube and squeezing — and you get days or weeks of extra use from the supposedly empty tube.

There's a lesson here for all of us. We work toward a goal and sometimes get frustrating results for a long time. Things aren't working out as we had anticipated. We think there's not much left in "our tube," and we give some thought to quitting. The reality is that we have a lot more left in the tube, if we'll only continue to believe in ourselves and keep moving forward.

In fact, our biggest breakthroughs often occur when we think there's nothing left in our tube. You see, there's a polarity to life, and when you experience setbacks and disappointments, these are often balanced by significant achievements. Yet most people quit before the "turnaround" happens.

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"The boy who is going to make a great man...
must not make up his mind not merely to overcome
a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand defeats."
~~ Theodore Roosevelt
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Who Benefits From Life Coaching

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"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."
(Maya Angelou)

Perhaps if we set out from the beginning that there is no ideal situation, we can relax and not compare ourselves. The goal should be to reach the 'ideal' for each individual. People who benefit from coaching/counseling are:

-People who are self-motivated.
-People who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
-People who "get" that coaching is beneficial to their daily performance.
-People who have demonstrated success in their own business or profession, and yet wish further growth!
usinesses and/or Non-Profits wishing to optimize their service to others (external) and to each other (internal)
-People who are in transition, i.e. career shift, job change, divorce, illness, etc.
-People who can afford coaching fees without unduly
burdening themselves or their families.
-High-functioning entrepreneurs and/or professionals
who want to "get a life" and build a legacy!

I provide direct, intuitive style of problem-solving with humor, encouragement and productivity. In my experience, this attracts those individuals who
seek success and are willing to hear the truth as I perceive it. My clients are people with a vision, who want to grow and mature in order to attain their
highest potential. I create a safe place for my clients, speak the truth to them as I know it to be at the time, and expect the best both of myself and of others.

Are you this type of person? If so, let me hear from you.

If you still wonder "Why" - read Why Hire a Coach?

Finally, some inspirations:

"Without AMBITION one starts nothing. Without WORK one finishes nothing. The prize will NOT be sent to you. You have to WIN it. The man who knows HOW will always have a job. The man who also knows WHY will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but PRINCIPLES are few. The man who grasps PRINCIPLES can successfully select his own METHODS. The man who tries METHODS, ignoring PRINCIPLES, is sure to have trouble."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why Hire a Life Coach?

-- Executive and Celebrity Life Coaching Services

-- Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

-- Reasons To Hire a Coach

-- Who Benefits from Life Coaching

-- Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

-- Rates and Payment

-- Confidentiality

Reasons to Hire a Life Coach

There are many reasons to hire a life coach, here are some of the most frequent:

1. You will set better goals that motivate you in a healthy way. Most of us did not sign up for Goal Setting 101 in high school - probably because there was no such course. There should have been.  Enter the coach, helping you to identify and set the goals that you really want, not the ones that are "shoulds," pipedreams, that you've been recycling or that mirror the goals of your parents, society or Madison Avenue. Choosing the right goals for you is an art and the coach takes the necessary time to help you clarify your personal values, so that you have something really solid onto which to develop your goals. Value-based goals are naturally motivating, but takes good coaching to get to.

2. You'll accomplish goals and tasks more quickly. One of the reasons that people hire a coach is to save themselves time. Working with a coach, you learn to be more effective, efficient and productive in everything you do, including your job/business or personal projects. We humans are simply not that effective by nature, even if we think that we are. The coach has the tools and techniques to share with their clients so that things get done in less time. (Even the coaching process is efficient -- on the phone, 1/2 hour a week, reasonable fee.)

3. You'll make fewer mistakes in your business and/or personal life. The old model of learning from your mistakes has deteriorated to be more like: How else will you learn if you don't make mistakes? Too expensive, in our view. With a coach, you have a third eye, someone who's been there and who has coached others in your situation, and an expert in getting the job done with the minimum of fuss (called learning curve, mistakes, errors in judgment, wrong tunnels, etc.). The costs (emotional, financial, time) of making mistakes has gotten very expensive in the past decade. A single mistake can ruin you in today's hyper-paced business environment. Some clients use their coach as an inexpensive insurance policy.

4. You'll move up to the next level of your professional and personal life.
Almost everybody is moving up the ladder of business success, personal development, awareness and well being. The coach can help you see where you are right now and point out ways to grow and get where you want to get to. Or, if you're not even on the ladder, the coach can guide you to it and help you get started on your path.

5. You'll reduce the number of problems you have and better resolve the problems that are left. The first step in solving a problem is to ask yourself why you have this problem at all. The second step is to ask yourself why you have problems at all. The third step is to get on track to having no problems -- a.k.a., becoming a Problem-Free Zone (PFZ). This is not a joke. Being a PFZ is becoming even more important along the path of sustainable success. You cannot afford to have problems, period. Life's too short and problems are too expensive. A well-trained coach can help you become a PFZ. A well-trained coach is a PFZ herself.

6. You'll likely make more money in your career, profession or business. Clients don't keep paying their coaches just for the fun of it. Coaching, like every other professional service, needs to improve the financial bottom line and it does. Coaches are trained to help clients to leverage their ability to make money, i.e., getting a raise, choosing a better career, starting a business, improving profitability, adding more value to their customers, proper pricing, productivity and others. Sure, coaching is personal, but it almost always includes a strong financial aspect.

7. You'll be a lot happier and this happiness will last. Coaches know how to help you to reduce stress, integrate all aspects of your life, simplify or downshift, and reorient around what makes you the happiest. What good is increased productivity and profitability if you're not happy?

8. You'll be much more effective and influential with others: family, business and personal relationships. Communication makes life, life. A coach is an expert communicator and trains clients on how to come across better, relate well with others, listen aggressively, influence, coach, motivate and support others. There are over 100 communication and listening skills that clients can learn from a coach.

9. You'll become much more attractive to others -- on the inside and on the outside. Selling, as a profession and as a proven technique/process, is on its way out. Why? Because humans are getting better at choosing for themselves and buying better. Humans will respond less to advertising and selling techniques and instead be drawn to a product or service and they will be more likely drawn because of who is offering the product or service. This process is called attraction and Coach University wrote the book on it (called Irresistible Attraction). It's real. It works. And it will replace much of the promotion, marketing, selling, seducing and other very expensive budget items. Remember that the world (a.k.a. consumers) is rapidly eliminating virtually all waste and inefficiencies in how business is conducted, products are sold and how services are delivered. Selling and mass marketing, while certainly still very effective right now, is on the hit list. Attraction is the next generation of selling and the well-trained coach can help you and your business get on this track immediately.

10. You'll have a better life, not just a better lifestyle. The term Quality of Life has become overused in the past few years, but the trend of Americans seeking to create a much better life for themselves is accelerating. In fact, people are re-examining what they had assumed that a good life was (married, 2.3 kids, nice car, secure job, church on Sundays, 3 weeks of vacation a year) and are now creating their own life, often breaking the rules and flying in the face of conventional wisdom in the process. A coach has been trained in the Life Design process and has already made the kind of design changes in their life that his/her clients are just now beginning to make.

Why Hire a Life Coach?

-- Executive and Celebrity Life Coaching Services

-- Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

-- Reasons To Hire a Coach

-- Who Benefits from Life Coaching

-- Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

-- Rates and Payment

-- Confidentiality

Who is a Life Coach, and What Can They Do for Me?

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Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

Much like the name implies, a coach can guide you in making personal and professional goals then work out the method to reach those goals.

The competitiveness of our everyday life had drawn our attention away from the inner voice we all have. A Coach can help you find your way back to your core, to make you a more solid and well rounded, happier you.

-- Overcome Relationship dificulties.

Isn't this the big one for most of us? I know the intense gut wrenching pain that can come with relationships from many first hand experiences... yet, I know the pain is self inflicted. I can show you how to get past relationship struggles much quicker and to feel secure and loved no matter what is going on around you.

-- Overcome intense anger and violence and transform into a harmless peaceful being.

I understand from first hand experience how you can be a loving and caring person one minute, and then turn into a raging beast the next. I know the destruction this causes your relationships and the self judgment that comes with your behavior.

-- Take your power back, stop being a victim!

Everyone has come to believe they are a victim in some way. There are still times I find that I have given my power away. I can show you how to take your power back and still remain loving and harmless.

-- Relationship Mediation.

I will help you and your partner work out your differences and find a win-win solution for you both. It does not matter if your difficult relationship is with your spouse, your child, a friend or a business associate. Let me help!

Why Hire a Life Coach?

-- Executive and Celebrity Life Coaching Services

-- Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

-- Reasons To Hire a Coach

-- Who Benefits from Life Coaching

-- Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

-- Rates and Payment

-- Confidentiality

Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

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Knowledge

Life-Coaching is like counseling, but the term "Life-Coaching" implies a few changes to the counselling paradigm:

* In the minds of many people there is a stigma about counselling, it's like admitting there is something wrong with you. Those that are seeking counselling are usually seeking a solution to a problem. I can help you solve problems. However, I know there is nothing wrong with you, you just misunderstand how life works. Gain new knowledge and you will be able to resolve your inner conflict.

* The term "Life-Coaching" honors the unique talents and abilities you have as well as your inherent worth as a spiritual-human being. Much like the olympian you see with their coach on TV -- you may have respect for the coach, but it is the athlete that does the hard work that ultimately wins the race!

* You are the one in charge of this process. You sign up with your coach so that you have someone to push you harder than you might push yourself. Yet it is you who chooses the goal.

* Your coach is there to cheer you on, to help you fine tune your skills, to present the newest techniques that give you the edge over your competition. In this case your competition is the old limiting beliefs you hold. You will learn how to cut the competition right out of the race!

Why Hire a Life Coach?

-- Executive and Celebrity Life Coaching Services

-- Who is a Life Coach, and what can they do for me?

-- Reasons To Hire a Coach

-- Who Benefits from Life Coaching

-- Counseling or Life-Coaching, is there a Difference?

-- Rates and Payment

-- Confidentiality

Nine Steps to FAST Success...just in time for spring

By Dr Jill Ammon-Wexler

How many times have you smashed up against a road block when you were after a goal, and wondered if you would EVER get there? There really are only two types of goal seekers -- those who "get it" and achieve their goals, and those who spend their lives wondering WHY they keep smashing up against those road blocks.

Here are nine ABSOLUTELY PROVEN keys to immediately "get it," and finally make some fast and lasting progress:

* Get CLEAR! That amazing 3-pound brain of yours is the ultimate goal-seeking machine! You have trained it from childhood to respond what you want. Vague wishes about “being more successful” will NOT get you anywhere. Get definite and precise. Decide once and for all EXACTLY what you want! Otherwise you are just wasting your time and energy!
* Get FOCUSED! Set your sights on ONE major goal. Too many goals will trip you up, unless they fall in line toward one ultimate goal, and you take them one at a time! Learn to focus!
* Get GOING! Any truly meaningful goal takes REAL EFFORT! It will not just happen and fall in your lap. Dreams are a good thing – but success comes when you wake up and go to work!
* Get FLEXIBLE! If you have created a plan of action and it is NOT working, sit down and take a good look at what you’re doing. Do NOT hang in with a strategy that is obviously not working. Find another approach -- PERIOD!!!!
* Get OPEN! Sometimes the best approach is to ask (or at least observe) other people who have already achieved what you are trying to achieve. But do remember to turn to truly qualified resources — not just any Tom, Dick or Mary. And if you are TRULY motivated -- considering getting a mentor!
* Get POSITIVE! If your mind is filled with worry and frustration – your mental focus will just create more of the same. Positive results require positive expectations. Just hold an image that you WILL get where you want to go. Then hitting a bump in the road will just toughen up your resolve.
* Get PASSIONATE! Passion is a great power for success. If you have true passion for your goal, you WILL achieve it. It you do not have a burning passion for your goal, ask yourself if it really represents your true desires.
* Get PRESENT! Seek out and embrace personal change. Shake off your past and get present in the here and now. The present moment is your ONLY true personal point of power. Stop bringing past limitations into the present!
* Get VISUALIZING! One of the most powerful (and often overlooked) tools for achieving success and building your belief in a goal is VIAUALIZATION. There is a very real reason it is recommended by so many super-successful people – because it works, and works well!

Self-Help

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Welcome! There are no accidents and if you've landed here you probably could use a bit of pampering and feeling safe.

Come and sit in this cozy corner and treat yourself to a little refocusing. We hope the articles will help you. If you need additional help, feel free to contact a Coach to help you get back on track or to set new goals.

Please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions and experiences by using the FEEDBACK form on the top left corner of the page, under the content menu.

A Glorious Story

Christians have a far more beautiful story to tell about the glorious nature of human sexuality than most imagine.
by Glenn T. Stanton

Christians have a far more beautiful story to tell about the glorious nature of human sexuality than any other story occupying the cultural stage now or ever. None of the rivals are even close. The Christian story of sexuality is true to the fullness in which God made us as humans and true to the nature of what is ultimately behind everything in the universe: God, who is love and who dwells in loving intimacy. We shouldn’t be shy about telling it with the power and beauty of our lives.

* We tell it to the world when we make deliberate decisions to protect our sexual health and wholeness from the ravaging wolves of premarital and extramarital sex.
* We tell it to our spouses when we give our total selves exclusively to them, desiring to give and serve rather than to take. We tell it when we affirm, honor, and protect their femininity or masculinity, whether we’re alone or in front of others.
* We tell it to our spouses and children when we honor our spouses with our fidelity. This isn’t just physical, but also mental and emotional. Husband, do your wife and children see you looking at other women or treating other women more kindly than you do your own wife? Wife, do you use sex as a bargaining chip with your husband, even playfully: "If you don’t play golf this Saturday, maybe we can see what happens after the kids go to bed?" Married couples should give of themselves freely and exclusively, without demanding from one another.
* We tell the Christian story when we treat our spouses as reflections of God upon the earth, not as objects for our own pleasure or usefulness.
* As your friends and children observe your life, what do they learn about sexuality? Do they get a distinctly Christian picture of sexuality? Do they see that you seek to please God and reflect His nature by honoring and serving your spouse? How we quietly care for and live out our sexual lives in front of others is a powerful lesson to them about how we view God, others, and ourselves. Remember, there’s much more to our sexual lives than the activity that takes place behind closed doors.

Loving Christ in your sex life means being pure. It means being chaste. Purity is so much more than what you don’t do. It’s who you are. Both purity and chastity are positive virtues and not merely an absence of wrong behavior. Pope John Paul II describes chastity very nicely in one of his pastoral letters:

The chaste person is not self-centered, not involved in selfish relationships with other people. Chastity makes the personality harmonious. It matures it and fills it with inner peace. This purity of mind and body helps develop true self-respect and at the same time makes one capable of respecting others, because it makes one see in them persons to reverence, insofar as they are created in the image of God and through grace are children of God, re-created by Christ who "called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).1

To love God in our sex lives means to be pure in the fullness of the person God created us to be—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. To do so is to live in wholeness.

Excerpted from My Crazy Imperfect Christian Family by Glenn T. Stanton. Copyright © 2004. Used by permission of NavPress.

Endnotes
1 Pope John Paul II, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1996), p. 20.

Can Intimacy be Found On Line?

It all depends on your definition of intimacy. by Steve Watters, M.A.

A major reason people go online is to find intimacy. At least that’s what psychologist Dr. David Greenfield discovered in a recent survey of over 18,000 people. But can intimacy be found online? It depends on your definition of intimacy.

Some people simply define intimacy as sex. By that definition, there’s plenty of intimacy online, including thousands of Web sites filled with sexual images and stories as well as scores of high-tech virtual sex services. This kind of content can easily lead to sexual stimulation, but can it deliver the dictionary definition of “intimacy”—very close association, warm familiarity? Not at all. Airbrushed models, virtual strippers, and a whole range of online personalities may get close enough to their viewers to get into their wallets—but not to develop a meaningful connection.

Some people think intimacy can be found, however, in the hundreds of sexually-oriented newsgroups and chat rooms. At least in those areas real people interact with each other and often trade communication that is not blatantly sexual. In fact, many newsgroup participants report being able to get close with people in interactive online areas in a way they never could in “real life.” “I’ve found a guy who actually wants to talk about the things I care about,” writes one chat room regular. “Without our relationship having to be based on looks, we are able to go much deeper,” writes another. Indeed, faceless communication on the Internet does allow individuals to bypass a lot of shyness and awkwardness. Wallflowers can become the star of the chat room. Those who are self-conscious about their body image can choose to share the things about themselves with which they are more comfortable.

But that kind of interaction also allows individuals the opportunity to hide all of their weaknesses while exaggerating their strengths. It’s easy for people to feel close with someone who is always able to “put their best foot forward.” We all want to be able to grow close to someone else while being able to also cover up bad things. Regrettably, all close relationships eventually have to address the good and the bad, the joys and the disappointments. Many men and women who leave their spouses for strangers they meet online are disappointed to find that their new relationship doesn’t seem as perfect in “real life” as it did online.

A consistent problem online (as well as offline) is the temptation to allow relational closeness to lead prematurely to sex. Women who go to chat rooms just to find someone to talk to are often overwhelmed with sexual banter. Even when they find someone who doesn’t seem interested in sex, their conversations can eventually become sensual—especially when they are trading deep secrets and strong passions. “Men tend to give intimacy in order to get sex,” says psychologist Dr. James Dobson, “ and women tend to give sex in order to get intimacy.” Internet chat rooms and newsgroups have a way of bringing those tendencies together. A man who only seems interested in discussing the challenges of being a divorced parent of teenagers can soon begin to pry about erotic interests. Furthermore, a woman who has invested in such a relationship and allows it to meet a need for her may decide to respond. So can an online relationship made up of deep conversation and occasionally punctuated with sexual banter meet the need we all have for intimacy—close association, warm familiarity? Once again, not at all. A relationship that can only be sustained by camouflaging problems and indulging in passionate pleasures is headed for disaster. Eventually we all need someone who can still love us when we are not at our best—when we are sick, unattractive, or have made mistakes.

If we are honest, the intimacy we all want is to be known for who we are—warts and all and still be loved. That intimacy can exist when we are prepared to do the same thing—to discover all the good and bad about someone else and then show them unconditional love. That process may benefit from some online communication but it inevitably requires a tremendous amount of face-to-face interaction in the “real world.” In the real world we are able to put everything on the table. We can process non-verbal communication, interpret emotions, and evaluate little habits and routines that may one day grow annoying. Therefore, true intimacy can not be found exclusively online.

Furthermore, the illusions of perfect images and perfect conversations online may make it even more difficult for us to ever experience intimacy with a less-than-perfect person in real life. The lure of fantasy partners can impair our ability to set realistic expectations for our mate and the temptation to cover up flaws through virtual interaction can damage our ability to communicate openly and honestly enough to make a meaningful, long-term connection.

“Life in the real world is far more interesting, far more important, far richer, than anything you’ll ever find on a computer screen,” says Internet pioneer Clifford Stoll. The high jinx of face-to-face relationships may seem too challenging compared to the online world, but at the end of the day, they offer a much greater chance of satisfying and fulfilling intimacy than anything found online.

Copyright © 1999 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

About the author
Steve Watters is the Director of Young Adults for Focus on the Family.

Creating Intimacy and Friendship in Marriage

If you and your spouse are growing apart, you may have overlooked an important piece of the intimacy puzzle: friendship.

by Debra Evans

When you hear the word companion, what does the term signify to you? Given the dictionary's definition of a companion as "somebody who accompanies you, spends time with you, or is a friend," do you currently see you and your husband companionably drawing together or separately drifting apart? Author Sheldon Vanauken warns:

In Genesis 2:18, we hear these words echo across the centuries, still vitally relevant to our relationships today: "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” Consider that the Hebrew word for helper is ezer — remarkably, the same word used in Psalm 118:7: "The LORD is with me; he is my helper (ezer)." Keeping this idea in mind reinforces the essential role we play within our sacred partnership. The blessing of friendship and tenderness in marriage honors this unchanging truth: A wife's loving companionship was designed by God to meet her husband's number one relationship need.

Evaluate your level of intimacy with your husband, then consider whether you might have been neglecting your husband's needs for affection, comfort, and camaraderie. Ask your husband what he would like to experience with you in this area. Talk about your observations with each other. Reflect on times you have felt closest to your husband — what made the difference? What are your expectations concerning your husband's friendship today? Is spending time with him fulfilling or disappointing? Why?

Have you had a night or weekend away alone together in the past year? What about the possibility of setting up regularly scheduled dates so you can spend time giving one another your undivided attention? If your husband seems less energized about this idea than you are, go back to the drawing board: Keep praying, asking for God's guidance and wisdom about how your marriage friendship can best be strengthened and renewed right now.

Whether you prefer a special night out that involves dressing up and making reservations at an exclusive restaurant, or an evening of fishing in a canoe, spending time together is what counts. Getting out alone, away from the dishes, the laundry, the bills, and the kids — even for a brief time — can do your relationship a world of good. It may seem like a big effort at first, especially if you're not used to spending a few hours a week away from work and family responsibilities. But I encourage you to make this effort. As your bond is renewed by your commitment to regularly schedule time alone together, your entire relationship will likely be refreshed.

Don't be discouraged if you meet with some resistance from your husband at first. Plenty of couples struggle with their "what I want to do tonight" differences. Outside the bedroom, it isn't always easy to find common ground in which to plant the seeds of marital intimacy and friendship. Even so, be patient; please don't give up. In time, you likely will reap a colorful harvest.

Discovery in Our Differences

At this point you may be wondering whether the effort will be worth it. While I can't make any absolute promises, I can speak from my own three-decades-plus experience. Here's why: My husband and I began our married life together without any shared hobbies and with many divergent interests. He wanted to go to baseball games; I preferred going to the ballet. I was an avid reader; he spent most of his free time playing basketball or the guitar. He rarely stepped foot inside the house if the sun was shining; I thrived indoors, regardless of the weather. And so on and so forth.

After we celebrated our first anniversary, I wondered if we had enough in common to make our marriage work. Initially, our mutual attraction to one another had been enough. Clearly, we needed something more to strengthen and deepen our bond.

Even though I was uncertain about the outcome, I began praying. I asked God to strengthen our marriage and opened my heart to His leading in the daily details of our married life together. Though I am still learning (and praying), I can now look back over the years and see a beautiful theme emerging: In learning to respect and even appreciate one another's differences, my husband and I no longer feel threatened by those parts of ourselves that are "apart," or different, from each other. Because both of us have repeatedly been willing to go outside our dissimilar comfort zones — he occasionally attending the ballet or “chick flick” with me; I going to see baseball/football/basketball/hockey games with him, for example — our well-weathered companionship has become more interesting and richly textured, allowing us both to grow together as a couple and as individuals. The blessing of friendship — the willingness to prefer my husband’s companionship above all others — has helped me be more tender toward the man I now know better and appreciate more than anyone else in the world.

From Blessing Your Husband, copyright 2003 by Debra Evans. A Focus on the Family Book published by Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Dangers and Disappointments of Pornography

Easy access, anonymity, and affordability have made Internet porn attractive, but few realize the dangers. by Ryan Hosley and Steve Watters

In 1995, Time magazine broke one of the first big stories on “cyberporn.” In that piece, Philip Elmer-Dewitt described the new allure of online porn:

... pornography is different on the computer networks. You can obtain it in the privacy of your home—without having to walk into a seedy bookstore or movie house. You can download only those things that turn you on, rather than buy an entire magazine or video. You can explore different aspects of your sexuality without exposing yourself to communicable diseases or public ridicule. (1)

Easy access, anonymity, and affordability have made Internet porn more attractive and seemingly less dangerous than past outlets for sexual experimentation. We’re starting to see, however, that looking for sex online is not without dangers and disappointments.

It’s still possible for the online sex surfer to get caught, get taken advantage of, get addicted or get in trouble with the law. Even the sex surfer who avoids these pitfalls may fail to find what they are looking for. Of equal concern to the dangers of looking for sex online is the disappointment of not finding it . . . in a meaningful way.

Getting caught

What could be more anonymous than viewing pornography on the Internet? A number of things actually—including physically walking into a sex store on the seedy side of town. Ironically, the same technology that makes it possible to view porn anonymously also makes it possible to track virtual footprints.

We often hear the expression, “surfing the Web.” But a better metaphor may be “walking on the beach” because your footprints follow you wherever you go. All browsers, Netscape, Internet Explorer, AOL, are equipped with a cache—a temporary file that saves a copy of any HTML pages, images or files that you access for quick downloading later. Though your cache files can be deleted, recovering them is simply a matter of knowing where to look.

Another means of following the footprints is through your Internet Service Provider. Though hard data is unavailable, it is estimated that more than two thirds of ISPs keep records similar to what the cache retains. The contents of these files have even been admitted as evidence in divorce hearings.

Lastly, the pornography industry behaves in a manner similar to a black widow spider. They have their web of Internet sites floating in space, waiting for the slightest hint of movement. When they realize someone has touched their web they hone in and attack, by attaching a cookie to your computer and tracking your usage. Furthermore, they commonly require a name and email address in exchange for a password. Once they have your name and email, they know exactly who you are and will proceed to inundate you with unsolicited messages until you shake yourself free or “succumb to their venom.”

Getting taken

In addition to risking your reputation by leaving footprints, you also risk being ripped off. The online porn industry has popped up in the news recently for fraud and credit scams. One porn site operator spoke truthfully about the industry when she said, “Porn comes down to this, we women are exploiting men’s weaknesses. You’re handing me your credit card. I’m not a victim. I’m exploiting you!” (2)

Greg Gutfeld, writing in Men’s Health magazine, reported his experiences with illegitimate credit card charges:

They know most people are too embarrassed to fight back. One man I spoke with told me he’d signed up for a 1-week free preview, supplying his credit-card number. “They sent me an access code for the site. But the code was seven numbers; they gave me five. I e-mailed my cancellation request numerous times, but they didn’t respond. They charged me for membership three months in a row. It’s going to be embarrassing to call my credit card company, but I’ve got to do it.” Many victims of these scams simply pay up rather than fess up. (3)

Adult web sites have also expanded beyond credit card fraud, into more legitimate means of taking your money. Recently AT&T issued a consumer alert because some customers had unwittingly triggered international long-distance charges when they accessed some sites. The Washington Post reported, “The [customers] said they were unaware that while surfing X-rated Web sites for a ‘free’ preview, or by clicking hot links in steamy e-mail spams, they had stepped into a new and apparently legal billing ploy.”(4) By failing to read the small print the unwary surfer granted permission to terminate the modem connection to his local ISP and connect a long-distance call to another country. The article ends with the following sober advice, “AT&T advises that other than never visiting adult entertainment Web sites, there is no fail-proof measures to take.”(5)

Getting addicted

You may manage to avoid getting caught, or even getting ripped off, but addiction is an even harder bullet to dodge. Greg Gutfeld explains that online porn has attracted a surprising number of married, professional men.” Most of them have never had a problem with porn before,” he says. “They certainly never felt like prisoners of sexual compulsion. Until now. For some, curiosity has progressed to obsession. They don’t mean to like electronic sex so much, but they do. And the need grows. They require more and more to keep from getting bored.”(6) Internet pornography has earned itself a reputation for being the crack cocaine of sexual addiction. “It works so quickly and it’s so instantly intense,” says Dr. Robert Weiss of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. “We’re seeing a whole population of clients who have never had a history with the problem, but for the first time, they’re beginning one particular activity and getting hooked.”(7)

The experience of sexual arousal can be adrenalized and intense when viewing pornography, and like any ‘high’ your body will crave another hit. The result is a pattern of addiction and escalation. Soft-core pictures of women in lingerie will soon become boring and you will seek full nudity, and as that loses novelty you will look for something more enticing. Dr. Victor Cline, of the University of Utah, has studied this escalation and reports that it proceeds according to four steps.(8)

Addiction: You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You’re hooked and can’t quit.

Escalation: You start to look for more graphic pornography. You start using porn that disgusted you earlier, but is now enticing to you.

Desensitization: You begin feeling numb towards the images you see. Even the most graphic porn is no longer arousing. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again, but you can’t find it.

Acting out sexually: This is the point that you make a critical jump and start acting out the images you have seen and rehearsed in your mind.

Carnes estimates that 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women in the U.S. are sexually addicted.(9) Another study by Stanford and Duquesne Universities revealed that at least 200,000 Americans are hopelessly addicted to e-porn.(10)

Getting in trouble

Charles Taylor Johnston wasn’t looking for pornography when he stumbled onto photos of children in sexual positions in an America Online chat room. That accidental discovery drew Johnston, a 35-year-old father of two, into a secret habit that eventually led him to jail.(11)

Johnston did not realize he could go to jail for possessing child pornography. But in 1996, a new law made it illegal for individuals to post child pornography and obscenity online. The law also targets individuals who indicate a willingness to travel for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity with a child. News about the law, however, was not widely reported. During his conviction in early 1997, Johnston made a statement encouraging the media to inform the public about laws related to Internet pornography.

Charles Johnston is by no means the only Web porn surfer to find himself behind bars: businessmen, teachers, coaches, and even several religious leaders have been arrested for downloading child pornography from the Internet or for arranging to have sex with minors.

Disappointments

For many seekers of online sex, the dangers of getting caught, getting addicted, getting taken advantage of or getting in trouble with the law simply become obstacles to work around. Instead of avoiding the dangerous behavior, they just try to dodge the dangerous consequences. Much harder to dodge is the inevitable disappointment of trying to find meaningful sexual fulfillment outside of a committed marriage.

A recent Zogby International survey, conducted for Focus on the Family, found that one in every five person admitted that they had visited a sexually-oriented Web site. Interestingly, two-thirds of them expressed that they didn’t think it was possible to find sexual fulfillment online. It turns out that the Internet is better at delivering sexual arousal than sexual intimacy.

Seeking sexual fulfillment through pornography will inexorably leave you unsatisfied. For starters, it will subtly affect the way you view women. Dr. Gary Brooks detailed this in his book called The Centerfold Syndrome. Essentially, women lose their relational value and are viewed as only sexual objects. The effects are especially obvious in marital relationships. “When a man, after weeks of [Internet pornography], actually sleeps with his wife, he’s in for a letdown,” says Greg Gutfeld.

This is common sense, and scientifically proven. Emotional arousal causes the release of epinephrine in your brain that chemically burns the pictures into your permanent memory. This enables those airbrushed and digitally enhanced pictures of women to remain with you through adulthood, and emerge at the most inopportune times.(12)

The New York Times recently told the story of a 34-year-old woman who discovered that her husband—a minister—had an online porn habit. “How can I compete with hundreds of anonymous others who are now in our bed, in his head? Our bed is crowded with countless faceless strangers, where once we were intimate.”(13)

Relationships are not only threatened by competing online images. Many become threatened by real life affairs inspired by online experimentation. Dan Garrett, a private investigator in South Carolina has seen a spike in cases related to online affairs. A lot of Garrett’s cases involve couples who have been married for 15 years or more. “They get bored and complacent,” Garrett says. “They get a computer. They start playing solitaire and then go to chat rooms. The next thing you know, they’re meeting someone at the Red Roof Inn.”(14)

It’s easy to become attracted to a would-be Internet lover. The person on the screen seems to have only good qualities. The Internet provides a disguise much like those used at a masquerade ball—inflaming curiosity and fantasies that often push men and women to leave their “real world” relationships behind.

A lesson for families

In addition to compromising your relationships with the opposite sex, pornography can have a dramatic effect on your children. Most men confess their first introduction to pornography resulted from finding a stash of magazines belonging to either their father or a friend. This early exposure set many men on a path toward sexual addiction. Furthermore, children are very perceptive. Sons seek to imitate the actions of their primary role model and often view women through the same lens their fathers do. Daughters, on the other hand, look for their sense of self worth in their father’s love and often find instead a sense that women are valued only for their body.

Dr. Jennifer Schneider, the assistant editor of the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity says that children are often victimized by Internet sex. She explains that children stumble on the pornographic material left on or near the computer or walk in on a parent masturbating at the computer.(15)

One man confessed that his addiction to pornography nearly destroyed his wife and daughter. Both women suffered from eating disorders and had suicidal tendencies because of his rejection. Every afternoon as he returned from work he feared finding his wife on the floor with her wrists slit, because of her feelings of inadequacy. Years later they went through counseling and his daughter shared her struggles. Tearfully she explained her feelings of inferiority. She saw how her father totally rejected her mom, a beautiful woman, and feared never finding a man who would love her and tell her she was beautiful. The two women this man loved the most suffered greatly because their husband and father rejected them to fulfill his lust for sex.

The New York Times recently reported that children also suffer from watching their parents fight over Internet sex—especially if the fight leads to divorce. The article goes on to say, “even if the marriage survives, children may lack adequate parental attention when one parent is preoccupied with sex on the computer and the other is preoccupied with the cybersex addict.”(16)

Elusive search for intimacy

When Carl, an oceanographer, was interviewed about his sex surfing for Men’s Health magazine, he told the writer, “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.”(17)

The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families addressed this issue in an article titled “Protecting yourself from pornography’s subtle effects”:

Getting along with the opposite sex is often difficult and sometimes downright exasperating. The effort that goes into maintaining a vibrant and mutually fulfilling sexual relationship sometimes feels like work when sex is supposed to be fun, right? That’s when pornography can begin to seem more interesting. But no matter how alluring or inviting the scenario, it’s a poor substitute for the real thing. And frankly, it’s a cop-out from building a meaningful relationship with a real person.(18)

By focusing so strongly on meeting a need for sexual arousal without addressing sexual intimacy, Internet pornography inevitably leads to disappointment. Unfortunately, thousands of men and women have already followed the siren song of Internet sex—finding more than they ever bargained for — but not finding the fulfillment they most desired.

Copyright © 2000 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Endnotes
1 Philip Elmer-Dewitt, “On A Screen Near You,” Time, July 3, 1995, Pg. 38.
2 Henry Rogers, The Silent War, (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1999) p. 146.
3 Greg Gutfeld, “The Sex Drive,” Men’s Health, October 1999, p. 121.
4 Don Oldenburg, “A Case of ‘Let the Surfer Beware,’” Washington Post, April 12, 2000, p. C4.
5 Oldenburg, April 12, 2000, p. C4.
6 Gutfeld, October 1999, p. 121.
7 Jim Dyar, “Cyberporn Held Responsible for Increase in Sex Addiction,” Washington Times, January 26, 2000.
8 Dr. Victor B. Cline, “Pornography’s Effect on Adults and Children,” Morality in Media, 2001 http://www.moralityinmedia.org/pornsEffects/clineart.htm (12 December 2001).
9 Patrick Carnes, Out of the shadows: Understanding sexual addiction, (Minneapolis: CompCare 1983).
10 Brendan I. Koerner, “A Lust for Profits,” U.S. News and World Report, March 27, 2000, p. 42.
11 Michelle Worobec, “Convicted Sex Offender Sends Warning,” Naples Daily News, January 15, 1997.
12 J.L McGaugh, “Preserving the presence of the past,” American Psychologist, February 1983, p. 161.
13 Jane Brody, “Cybersex Gives Birth to a Psychological Disorder,” New York Times, May 16, 2000, p. 1, Health and Fitness.
14 Bartie Lancaster, “Affairs to Remember More Common Online,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 27, 1998, p. C-3.
15 Brody, May 16, 2000, p. 1.
16 Brody, May 16, 2000, p. 1.
17 Gutfeld, October 1999, p. 121.
18 “NCPCF in Action Special Report,” National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, July 1997.

About the author
Steve Watters is the Director of Young Adults for Focus on the Family

Finding Pure Intimacy

Recovering the heart of human sexuality. by Daniel Weiss

The first half of the twentieth century was characterized by unprecedented political upheaval; the latter half by tremendous social upheaval. Cultural revolutions in China, Europe, and the United States forced a re-imagining of gender, politics, art, music, sexuality, and faith in public and private life.

The Christian Church was not immune to these changes. Internal revolutions, often over the issue of sexuality, captured a number of major denominations, splitting them along conservative and liberal lines. The dawn of the twenty-first century threatens further schisms as churches debate the nature of homosexuality and its place in the pulpit and the pew.

Many of these debates hinge on what some believe is a dearth of biblical writings on the subject. Homosexuality, they claim, is only mentioned a handful of times. And therefore, as the argument goes, it isn’t important to God. But to argue that God declares an issue unimportant because it is rarely mentioned in the Bible is to deny His sovereignty and His interest in every aspect of our lives. Does He not even know the number of hairs on our head?

If Christians can disagree so vehemently on these issues, can we ever know the truth about God’s design and intention for sexuality?

It is no coincidence that the human story begins and ends with a wedding. In Genesis, God made us male and female and bid us to be fruitful and multiply; the book of Revelation describes the wedding feast of Christ and His Church. The love and intimacy we are to experience at the end of time was written into us in the beginning through our being embodied in the image and likeness of God.

Although the Bible employs other analogies for God’s relationship to His people, the most common is that of bridegroom and bride. If we are created in God’s image, does this heavenly relationship have any bearing on our earthly relationships?

It holds more meaning than most of us have ever imagined.

The distinction between the sexes and the complementarity of our bodies indicate God’s design for human relationship, communion, and unity, realized most profoundly in the marital embrace. This one-flesh union bespeaks the greater intimacy that exists among the persons of the Trinity. The Triune God loves completely, faithfully, freely, and fruitfully — as seen in the creation of the universe, and, more specifically, in the creation of humankind.

In too many ways, the church over the past two-thousand years has been like Moses leading the people through the desert. In Christ, we were given the keys to a transformed life, including a transformed understanding of sexuality. Like the Israelites, however, we balked at the land of milk and honey. Our refusal to take what God has given us has led to a long and arduous journey in the parched land of sexual boundaries and regulations.

In God’s mercy, He gave us boundaries to save us from further harm and destruction, but we have not learned the lessons He intended to teach through them. The sexual disorder in churches today is not unlike the grumbling of the Israelites: we resist God’s design when we do not understand it.

In 2003, Gene Robinson heralded his installation as the first openly homosexual Anglican bishop with this message: "I think God is doing a new thing in the world." Robinson was right, but not the way he imagines it. God’s "new thing" is as old as creation and as timeless as truth.

The work God began in us through creation has been marred and twisted by our sin and by Satan’s targeted attacks. If our sexuality, properly expressed in the marital embrace, was designed to point us back to our Creator and His love, then this is where Satan would logically direct his cruelest assaults. To know what is most holy in this life, look to what has been most profaned. The new thing God is doing in our lifetime is restoring His people’s understanding of His original design for sexuality and life. The redemption provided through Jesus Christ is untwisting what Satan has warped, and loosing the chains of sexual enslavement that have stifled true freedom. God is gathering His children and opening their eyes to the beauty and wonder He has always desired for us.

Pure Intimacy is populated with the writings of Christians who have captured and understood God’s vision for sexuality. Like Joshua, they see past today’s parched and dying sexual landscape to a land rich with blessing and ready for conquer. These articles are but a few opening salvos fired in the battle to reclaim God’s wonderful, glorious, inspiring design for sexuality that has been held captive by our enemy for far too long.

May the Lord of Life illuminate you as you seek His wisdom and truth.

About the author
Daniel Weiss is the media and sexuality analyst for Focus on the Family. He also serves as project manager for Pure Intimacy.

Focus on the Inside

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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.

    God's Design for Marriage

    by Carol Heffernan

    It's easy to think that only "other people" get divorced. That your own marriage is somehow immune to heartache, infidelity and fights over who gets the house, the car, the dog. After all, how many of us would walk down the aisle if we believed our relationships would end up in divorce court?

    Truth is, no relationship comes with a lifetime guarantee. Even men and women who grew up in stable homes, who attend church and consider themselves Christians, who promise "until death do us part," can have it all fall apart.

    As Christians, we know that applying biblical principles to marriage will give us a stronger foundation than those of our unbelieving friends and neighbors. We know this, but what are we doing about it? In other words, what makes a marriage "Christian"?

    According to author Gary Thomas, we're not asking the right questions. What if your relationship isn't as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?

    Instead of asking why we have struggles in the first place, the more important issue is how we deal with them.

    In Sacred Marriage, Thomas has not written your typical "how to have a happier relationship" book. Rather, he asks: How can we use the challenges, joys, struggles and celebrations of marriage to draw closer to God? What if God designed marriage to make us both happy and holy?

    Viewing Marriage Realistically

    "We have to stop asking of marriage what God never designed it to give — perfect happiness, conflict-free living, and idolatrous obsession," Thomas explains.

    Instead, he says, we can appreciate what God designed marriage to provide: partnership, spiritual intimacy and the ability to pursue God — together. So, what does Thomas think is the most common misconception Christians have about marriage?

    "Finding a 'soul mate' — someone who will complete us," he says. "The problem with looking to another human to complete us is that, spiritually speaking, it's idolatry. We are to find our fulfillment and purpose in God . . . and if we expect our spouse to be 'God' to us, he or she will fail every day. No person can live up to such expectations."

    Everyone has bad days, yells at his or her spouse, or is downright selfish. Despite these imperfections, God created the husband and wife to steer each other in His direction.

    Thomas offers an example: "When my wife forgives me . . . and accepts me, I learn to receive God's forgiveness and acceptance as well. In that moment, she is modeling God to me, revealing God's mercy to me, and helping me to see with my own eyes a very real spiritual reality."

    While it's easy to see why God designed an other-centered union for a me-centered world, living that way is a challenge. So when bills pile up, communication breaks down and you're just plain irritated with your husband or wife, Thomas offers these reminders to help ease the tension:

    * God created marriage as a loyal partnership between one man and one woman.
    * Marriage is the firmest foundation for building a family.
    * God designed sexual expression to help married couples build intimacy.
    * Marriage mirrors God's covenant relationship with His people.

    We see this last parallel throughout the Bible. For instance, Jesus refers to Himself as the "bridegroom" and to the kingdom of heaven as a "wedding banquet."

    These points demonstrate that God's purposes for marriage extend far beyond personal happiness. Thomas is quick to clarify that God isn't against happiness per se, but that marriage promotes even higher values.

    "God did not create marriage just to give us a pleasant means of repopulating the world and providing a steady societal institution to raise children. He planted marriage among humans as yet another signpost pointing to His own eternal, spiritual existence."

    Serving Our Spouse

    He spends the entire evening at the office — again. She spends money without entering it in the checkbook. He goes golfing instead of spending time with the kids. From irritating habits to weighty issues that seem impossible to resolve, loving one's spouse through the tough times isn't easy. But the same struggles that drive us apart also shed light on what we value in marriage.

    "If happiness is our primary goal, we'll get a divorce as soon as happiness seems to wane," Thomas says. "If receiving love is our primary goal, we'll dump our spouse as soon as they seem to be less attentive. But if we marry for the glory of God, to model His love and commitment to our children, and to reveal His witness to the world, divorce makes no sense."

    Couples who've survived a potentially marriage-ending situation, such as infidelity or a life-threatening disease, may continue to battle years of built-up resentment, anger or bitterness. So, what are some ways to strengthen a floundering relationship — or even encourage a healthy one? Thomas offers these practical tips:

    * Focus on your spouse's strengths rather than their weaknesses.
    * Encourage rather than criticize.
    * Pray for your spouse instead of gossiping about them.
    * Learn and live what Christ teaches about relating to and loving others.

    Young couples in particular can benefit from this advice. After all, many newlyweds aren't adequately prepared to make the transition from seeing one another several times a week to suddenly sharing everything. Odds are, annoying habits and less-than-appealing behaviors will surface. Yet as Christians, we are called to respect everyone — including our spouse.

    Thomas adds, "The image I use in Sacred Marriage is that we need to learn how to 'fall forward.' That is, when we are frustrated or angry, instead of pulling back, we must still pursue our partner under God's mercy and grace."

    Lastly, Thomas suggests praying this helpful prayer: Lord, how can I love my spouse today like (s)he's never been loved and never will be loved?

    "I can't tell you how many times God has given me very practical advice — from taking over some driving trips to doing a few loads of laundry," Thomas says. "It's one prayer that I find gets answered just about every time."

    While other marriage books may leave us feeling overwhelmed, spotlighting our shortcomings and providing pages of "relationship homework," Sacred Marriage makes it clear that any couple can have a successful, happy and holy marriage.

    With a Christ-centered relationship, an other-centered attitude and an unwavering commitment to making it work, your marriage can flourish — just as God designed.

    Gary L. Thomas
    is a writer and the founder and director of the Center for Evangelical Spirituality, a writing and speaking ministry that integrates Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics.
    Carol Heffernan is the online editor for broadcast programming at Focus on the Family.

    The Covenant Marriage

    The Power of Commitment

    Great 'Sex'pectations

    Married couples should enjoy a sexual relationship that is expressed body-to-body, heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul.

    by Lysa TerKeurst

    James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said, "Some would say 'having sex' and 'making love' are one and the same, but there's an important distinction between the two. The physical act of intercourse can be accomplished by any appropriately matched mammals, as well as most other members of the animal kingdom. But the art of making love, as designed by God, is a much more meaningful and complex experience -- it's physical, emotional, and spiritual. In marriage we should settle for nothing less than a sexual relationship that is expressed not only body-to-body, but heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul."'

    It's easy to understand how to connect with your wife body-to-body. Like the song goes, "Just doin' what comes naturally." Understanding how to connect heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul is more challenging. These deeper connections are not only possible, but essential in binding two whom God joined together inseparably.

    The great "sex"pectations of our society constantly flash the message that being connected body-to-body with another is all about the pleasure that can be gained through the encounter. What if we viewed it as something much more meaningful? For your wife, making love is not an encounter; it is an experience. It's not something that is turned on for thirty minutes and off for the other twenty-three and a half hours of the day. For her "experience" to be complete, she needs YOU to set the stage for making love by connecting with her heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul throughout the day.

    Before you start rolling your eyes and shaking your head, think back to the days before you were married, before you connected body-to-body. Remember the thrill of discovery? The days when you laid the foundation of your relationship by favorite foods, connecting heart-to-heart? Finding out what makes her happy, her dreams for her future, and hopes for her tomorrows. She still wants you to share these things with her, only now on a deeper level. No longer are they just her dreams, she wants her desires to be your dreams too. And she wants YOU to share goals and aspirations that are tucked away in your heart, as well.

    One of the most meaningful times of my marriage was when Art made my passion for writing and dream of being a published author, a dream he could dream with me. How thrilled I was to catch him reading my manuscripts not because I asked him to but because he wanted to. How fun it's been for me to see "our" dreams become a reality. And, oh, how attracted I am to him when he tells me how proud he is of me. When we connect heart-to-heart, I desire to be connected body-to-body.

    I also want to connect soul-to-soul with Art. Recently we determined that this area of our marriage needed to be worked on, so we decided to make it a priority to do a nightly devotion in our bed before we turn out the lights. This has been a wonderful way to melt away the stress of our day and soften any quarrels and petty arguments we may have had earlier. Reading a couple's devotional book or God's Word and praying together gives us a fresh perspective and helps connect us in that deeper soul level. There's something about our home at night when the kids are in bed and we are alone reading, talking, sharing, and praying that has made our relationship incredibly intimate.

    Why not take an inventory of your intimate relationship with your wife and together answer these questions:

    * What is the difference between having sex and making love?
    * Is there anything about our intimate life that could be improved upon?
    * How can we better connect heart-to-heart?
    * What are your dreams for the future?
    * Do we regularly connect soul-to-soul?
    * How could we make connecting soul-to-soul a priority?
    * Is there anything I need to seek your forgiveness for in this area of our lives?
    * What do you love most about our marriage?

    These are not the kinds of questions you fly through at the breakfast table while wolfing down coffee and toast. Let me encourage you to set aside some time to get away with your wife where the two of you can be alone and uninterrupted. If finances are tight, get creative. Pack a picnic lunch and go to a quiet park in your area. If you can afford to get away overnight, trade baby-sitting with another couple or ask Grandma and Grandpa if they'd like time with their grandkids.

    Art and I discovered a wonderful bed-and-breakfast that we steal away to a couple of times a year to have these types of discussions. There are no TVs, just beautifully piped-in music and lots of time for sweet conversation and connection. We leave the ups and downs of life behind as we escape to a little place we are sure must be a little like heaven. We schedule our special time in advance and determine that no matter what deadlines might be pressuring us to delay or cancel our trip, we don't forgo this investment in our marriage.

    From Capture Her Heart, by Lysa TerKeurst. Copyright © 2002, Moody Press. Used with permission of the publisher.

    Love and Respect in Action

    by Carol Heffernan
    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."

    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.

    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."

    One-Flesh Intimacy

    The word intimacy is tossed around quite a bit these days. What's it really about?

    by Joe Beam

    The word intimacy is tossed around quite a bit these days. Often when we describe a couple as intimate, we mean the two appear extremely familiar with each other — so familiar that the spouses often finish each other’s sentences. But having the familiarity to predict the other’s reactions does not necessarily indicate intimacy. In popular entertainment, intimacy is used to describe a couple’s sex life. Though indispensable to an intimate marriage, sexual activity is not the lone factor in experiencing intimacy.

    Jesus tells us in Mark 10:7-8 that marriage creates an intimacy of one flesh. The phrase one flesh teaches us a great deal about how real intimacy develops and is cultivated in marriage relationships. If we become one flesh with our spouse, then we must open all aspects of our emotional, spiritual and physical lives to that person to the point that we are not unknown in any dimension.

    Sadly, even among Christians, one-flesh intimacy is rare. Many husbands and wives wonder why they chose to marry their spouse in the first place and wish they could escape what feels like a prison instead of a loving and intimate relationship. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    God wants you to experience that one-flesh intimacy described by Jesus. But many go about it the wrong way by failing to realize the three dimensions of an intimate marriage.

    Emotional intimacy means couples share facts, feelings, opinions, dreams, fears and frustrations. They experience happiness and sadness together as if the two were one person. They live their lives openly, without secrets or fear of condemnation from their spouse. Conversations are frequent and expected because sharing is vital to building and maintaining this dimension of intimacy.

    If emotional intimacy is not achieved in marriage, a person may seek it with someone outside of marriage. Emotional intimacy with someone other than your spouse is dangerous because it often leads to physical intimacy.

    Spiritual intimacy can take place only between two people who share Jesus Christ as their Savior. All Christians have the potential to share a part of this dimension with one another. But, when a husband and wife share their spiritual lives, they pray and study God’s Word together, talk about spiritual issues and encourage and challenge one another in their faith. By doing this, they grow together in their relationship with God and walk together in His light.

    Physical intimacy is equally important. Mates who think that spiritual and emotional intimacy are enough only fool themselves. God placed powerful sexual drives in us and intended for husband and wife to fulfill each other (1 Corinthians 7:2-4). Though one spouse might become convinced that sexual fulfillment is unnecessary, that doesn’t make it so. Especially in our cultural climate, sexual intimacy in marriage is important to cultivate and protect.

    While we can share some sense of emotional intimacy with others, our deepest intimacies should be reserved for our spouse alone. That means I share my emotion, my spirit and my body with my spouse. If I withhold any dimension of myself, I am preventing us from becoming one flesh. Yield yourself to your spouse. Let down the walls in every area of your being to experience the kind of intimacy God intended for you.

    Joe Beam is president and founder of Family Dynamics Institute and author of Becoming One.

    The Covenant Marriage

    How serious are marriage vows? If they are anything like an Old Testament covenant, they're very serious.

    by Al Janssen

    If God really got married, the logical question is, “When?” Did I miss the wedding ceremony somewhere? The answer emerged when I learned about an ancient ceremony used between two nomadic tribes to make a peace treaty or to promise a boy and girl in marriage. The fathers would slaughter a goat or other animal, cut the carcass in half, and then at sundown walk barefoot through the blood path. The slaughtered animals symbolized what would happen to either party if they violated the terms of the agreement.

    This was the ceremony God chose to use when he entered into a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. God asked Abram to take a heifer, a goat and a ram, plus a dove and a young pigeon, and slaughter them. But there was an unusual twist in this ceremony. While Abraham and his descendants were committed to this covenant with God, only God walked the blood path, thereby signifying that if Israel violated the agreement, God would pay the price with His own blood.

    Technically, Abram and his descendants weren't married to God in the same sense that we understand a wedding ceremony today. It would be more accurate to say they were betrothed, which means that they were promised to each other. It is the same for Christ and His bride, the church. The wedding feast celebrating this marriage remains in the future at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

    In our culture, couples are first engaged — they declare their intent to marry — but either party may back out before the wedding day, and there is no legal consequence for breaking an engagement. Such was not the case with betrothal. A betrothal was an ironclad contract that could be severed only by unfaithfulness or death. Though a couple might not celebrate and consummate their marriage for years, legally they were still considered married.

    Such was the case with Joseph and Mary when she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. If a girl who was betrothed was found not to be a virgin before the wedding feast, when the marriage was consummated, she could be executed. This explains why Joseph, upon hearing that Mary was pregnant, decided not to make a public spectacle of his wife but to put her away privately — that is, until God spoke to him and revealed the identity of the child in her womb.

    I wonder what the impact was on the children who witnessed a covenant sealed in blood by their fathers. Though they might hardly know each other, and indeed it might be years before they were ready to celebrate the wedding, they surely understood the commitment being made. There was only one way to escape from this marriage — by death.

    Marriage Today

    When a couple marries today, a lot of effort goes into the wedding. According to Bride's magazine, when the average couple adds up the costs of a wedding dress, tuxedos, dresses for the bridesmaids, rings, invitations, flowers, music, photographer, wedding cake and reception, they spend more than $19,000.

    When we were married, Jo was a poor schoolteacher and I was a poor writer. We had less than $1,000 for our wedding. Jo brilliantly maximized the reach of our limited budget by making her own wedding dress and soliciting help from friends and family for such things as food preparation.

    A major element of our planning was the ceremony itself. We'd both attended many weddings, and the norm of the late seventies was for each couple to custom-design their ceremony.

    In that spirit, Jo and I sat down one Sunday afternoon to write out our commitment to each other. We discussed what we were doing in marriage: pledging to be faithful, to take care of each other, to support one another during good times and hard times. We scribbled several drafts, but none of them captured the right tone.

    Finally, we settled on the following:

    "I Al take thee, Jo, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health 'til death do us part."

    "I Jo take thee, Al, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health 'til death do us part."

    Those words or a slight variation of them have served Christians for centuries, and we couldn't find anything that better expressed what we were committing to each other. They expressed the vows we were making — an irrevocable commitment to each other with God as our witness.

    Covenant

    Today most people don't understand what covenant means. Our culture is built on contracts, and everyone knows that a crackerjack lawyer can find a loophole if you really want out. So contracts get longer and longer as the parties try to close all possible loopholes, but litigation increases because people change their minds and want release from their agreements.

    One contract that is increasing in usage is the prenuptial agreement. A covenant is not at all like a prenuptial agreement. For one thing, there is no escape clause. In ancient times, a covenant was a legal agreement, but with two major differences from contracts today. A covenant was made before deity. And the penalty for breaking it was death. People might negotiate out of contracts, but not out of a covenant.

    The covenant between God and Abraham was more binding than a wedding certificate is today. God impressed on Abraham the importance of the covenant: “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you.” While Abraham didn’t walk the blood path, there was a symbol of his acceptance of the agreement. The proof of Abraham’s commitment was that he and every male descendant was circumcised (Genesis 17:9-14).

    But in the covenant of blood, God traveled the blood path alone. By doing so, he said that if Abraham or any of his descendants violated this contract, God would pay the price with His own blood. There would come a day when God would heroically have to keep that promise.

    For centuries in liturgical churches the service of holy matrimony has been clearly spelled out word for word. As I read several liturgies, I was struck by the similarities between the church service of holy matrimony and the biblical concept of covenant.

    For example, the marriage service is conducted before God. Historically a covenant was always a religious ceremony, made before God or gods as witnesses. It was the one treaty between enemies that was enforceable, because neither party was willing to risk the wrath of their deity.

    In the English Book of Common Prayer (1662), a wedding service begins with the minister addressing the congregation: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God…to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony." Again and again, the couple and witnesses are reminded that God is witness to this union.

    Second, a covenant had witnesses. Likewise, the marriage vows are made before human witnesses. Why is that important? A pastor I know challenged a friend who had just announced he was leaving his wife of six years. "Oh no you're not!" said the pastor. "You made a vow to love your wife until death. I know. I was there and I heard you. Now you stay with her and work things out." The man was shocked, but he stayed, and today their marriage is much healthier. I wonder what would happen if, like this pastor, more witnesses challenged couples to fulfill their wedding vows.

    Third, both a covenant and a traditional marriage ceremony declared the seriousness of the commitment. In The Book of Common Prayer, the minister utters these words in his opening exhortation to the congregation and the couple standing before him: "Holy Matrimony…is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be enterprised…unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God."

    Recently, as I reflected on the vows Jo and I exchanged at our wedding, I was struck by the one-sidedness of our commitment. There were no qualifiers or disclaimers. I had promised to love Jo for better or worse until death, regardless of her actions or attitude. Likewise, Jo promised to have me for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for as long as we both shall live, regardless of how well or poorly I behaved. No doubt we both assumed we would reciprocate in our love for each other. However, our vows said nothing about being loved back. By our words, each of us assumed 100 percent responsibility for the marriage. That's the nature of covenant. Each party makes an irrevocable vow.

    Fourth, something of great value was exchanged. God wanted to give Abraham and his descendants a country, but He did it in the context of family. Did Abraham realize he was actually getting the best end of the deal? He was entering into a long-term relationship with the God of the universe. The land was very important, but it wasn't the most important thing — it was a symbol of the value of their relationship.

    I am impressed again by the nature of the exchange in the traditional marriage service. It particularly struck me when I read the words uttered by the husband when he places the wedding ring on his wife's finger: "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” In other words, the husband gave everything he had to his wife, including his body and his earthly possessions. No longer were there his or her possessions. Everything was theirs. Why is this important? Because in giving our all, we actually gain what we want.

    Permanence of Marriage

    Obviously millions of couples chafe under the idea of covenant, feeling that the permanence fences them in. But Jo and I feel secure within these boundaries. Without the possibility of divorce, Jo and I know that regardless of our problems, we will be there for each other. And when we disagree or fight, we had better figure out a way to resolve our differences, for we are going to be together for a very long time.

    This article is excerpted from The Marriage Masterpiece, a Focus on the Family resource by Al Janssen, published by Tyndale House Publishers, copyright © 2001. All rights reserved.

    The Power of Commitment

    Believe me, ours is not a perfect marriage. But I am far richer when I remember the "three Cs" of a great marriage.

    by Phil Callaway

    My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.

    — Winston Churchill

    The great philosopher Socrates once wrote, "By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you will become very happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher."

    Some time ago, my parents were visiting and I asked them about the secret to their 55-year marriage. Without hesitation, Dad said, "Senility. I wake up each morning and I can't remember who this old girl is. So each day is a new adventure." When Mom finally quit pinching him, he got serious.

    "In a word?" he said. "Commitment."

    You don't have to stand in the checkout line long to know that commitment is not a hallmark of our culture. Standing near the chocolate bars the other day, I picked out a tabloid and read of Rex and Teresa LeGalley, a young couple who want to ensure that their recent marriage will stand the test of time. After all, it was Teresa's second marriage and Rex's third. So they drew up a 16-page prenuptial agreement that specifies such details as what time they'll go to bed, how often they'll have sex, which gasoline they'll purchase and who will do the laundry. Says Teresa, "This is the plan that we think will keep us married for 50 or 60 years."

    When I told this to Dad, he had another one-word response: "Ha!"

    Occasionally Hollywood surprises us with some good news, though. Famed singer and actress Bette Midler, who has been married for 13 years to artist Martin von Haselberg, was asked about the key to their marriage. Midler responded, "Separate vacations." Then, like my dad, she got serious. "We're committed," she said. "We're in it for the long haul. Besides, you really don't get to know a person until you've known them a long time, and we don't know each other yet, even though it's been 13 years. Sometimes it's been a struggle, but amazingly we didn't give up."

    Mel Gibson, who was married the same year as Midler, agrees. Recently the popular movie star found himself talking with an older man about marriage. "We were having a real heart-to-heart," recalls Gibson, "then his wife appeared. She was a beautiful girl about 19 or 20. And I said, 'Oh, you are a lucky man.' The man shook his head and answered, 'I should have stayed with my first wife. Things haven’t changed — she just looks different.'" Gibson sums it up, "You see, people are chasing things they can't get. They're just illusions. You've got to make a commitment in marriage — just say, 'This is it.' I think too many people go into marriage too lightly. You’ve got to take it seriously — go in there to make it last."

    When asked by US magazine about the secret to his 41-year marriage, James Garner, the star of Maverick and The Rockford Files, said, "Consideration. You have to care for [your spouse] and do a lot of forgiving and forgetting. It’s a two-way street. A lot of people don't get married because they know they can get out of it at any minute. Hey, it was difficult for me to make that commitment, but when I make them, I stick with them."

    I remember reading of an elderly couple whose family had thrown a golden anniversary party for them. The husband was deeply touched by their kindness and stood to thank them. Then he looked at his wife of 50 years and tried to put into words just how he felt about her. Lifting his glass he said: "My dear wife, after 50 years I've found you tried and true." Everyone smiled their approval, but not his wife. She had hearing trouble, so she cupped one hand behind an ear and said, "Eh?" Her husband repeated himself loudly, "AFTER FIFTY YEARS I'VE FOUND YOU TRIED AND TRUE!" His wife shot back, "Well, let me tell YOU something — after 50 years I’m tired of you, too!"

    Thankfully, commitment doesn't need to be like that. Marriage is not a life sentence; it is a joyful privilege. Paul Brand, the missionary doctor who worked for many years among leprosy victims in India, said these challenging words: "As I enter my sixth decade of marriage I can say without a flicker of hesitation that the basic human virtue of faithfulness to one partner is the most joyful way of life … I have always trusted my wife completely, and she me. We have each been able to channel love and commitment and intimacy to one person — a lifelong investment that is now, in old age, paying rich dividends."

    A friend once told me that his parents always got along. That he had never heard them disagree, and he had certainly never heard them argue. I finally stopped laughing long enough to tell him that I couldn't say that about Mom and Dad. But I never doubted their commitment to each other. What kept them committed? Simple obedience to the One with whom they had the most important relationship of all.

    Often at night, I came into Mom and Dad’s room and found them praying together. Or reading the Bible together. They knew that "unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). Mom told me one day, "Only with Christ at the center of our marriage, at the center of our home, at the center of everything we do, can we experience the greatest joy and fulfillment possible." My wife and I have made a commitment to read the Bible and pray together before we go to sleep each night. We haven't always achieved that goal. In fact, sometimes we have gone through weeks of neglecting it altogether. But when we follow through on this simple commitment, it can make a world of difference in our marriage. For one thing, I find it very difficult to read passages like Colossians 3:12-14 aloud to my wife without it having a dramatic effect on the way l treat her.

    Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    It is Christ alone who gives us the power to love others in this way.

    Believe me, ours is not a perfect marriage. But I am far richer when I remember the three "Cs" of a great marriage: Communication. Commitment. Christ.

    It may not be the deepest thing you’ll ever read, but I’d rather be a happily married man than a philosopher. Any day.

    Excerpted from Making Life Rich Without Any Money, copyright © 1998 by Phil Callaway. Used by permission of Harvest House Publishers.

    I Know What You Did Last Night

    Sixty-eight percent of guys at five religiously affiliated schools said they had looked for porn online. 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.** 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 mudpies 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 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

    Endnotes
    * Not his real name
    ** 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.

    About the author
    Steve Watters is the Director of Young Adults for Focus on the Family. He and his wife Candice live in Colorado Springs with their four children.

    Subtle Dangers of Pornography

    Pornography poses myriad dangers worth considering.
    by National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families

    Ted Bundy confessed before he was executed for multiple murders that addiction to pornography fueled his violent behavior. Many viewers of pornography claim that occasional viewing of nudity will not turn them into serial killers. True, only a small percentage of individuals who view pornography develop addictions that lead them to violent behavior. Pornography, however, does pose subtle dangers worth considering.

    In his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, psychologist Gary R. Brooks, Ph.D., identifies five principal symptoms of what he describes as a “pervasive disorder” linked to consumption of soft-core pornography like Playboy and Penthouse.

    Voyeurism - An obsession with looking at women rather than interacting with them. Brooks contends that the explosion in glorification and objectification of women’s bodies promotes unreal images of women, distorts physical reality, creates an obsession with visual stimulation and trivializes all other mature features of a healthy psycho-sexual relationship.

    Objectification - An attitude in which women are objects rated by size, shape and harmony of body parts. Brooks asserts that if a man spends most of his emotional energy on sexual fantasies about inaccessible people, he frequently will not be available for even the most intimate emotional and sexual moments with his partner.

    Validation - The need to validate masculinity through beautiful women. According to Brooks, the women who meet centerfold standards only retain their power as along as they maintain perfect bodies and the leverage of mystery and unavailability. And the great majority of men who never come close to sex with their dream woman are left feeling cheated or unmanly.

    Trophyism - The idea that beautiful women are collectibles who show the world who a man is. Brooks asserts that the women’s-bodies-as-trophies mentality, damaging enough in adolescence, becomes even more destructive in adulthood. Furthermore, trophies, once they are won, are supposed to become the property of the winner, a permanent physical symbol of accomplishment and worthiness. This cannot be so with women’s bodies.

    Fear of true intimacy - Inability to relate to women in an honest and intimate way despite deep loneliness. Pornography pays scant attention to men’s needs for sensuality and intimacy while exalting their sexual needs. Thus, some men develop a preoccupation with sexuality, which powerfully handicaps their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships with men and for nonsexual relationships with women.
    A few things to think about

    * Professors Dolf Zillman of Indiana University and Jennings Bryant of the University of Houston found that repeated exposure to pornography results in a decreased satisfaction with one’s sexual partner, with the partner’s sexuality, with the partner’s sexual curiosity, a decrease in the valuation of faithfulness and a major increase in the importance of sex without attachment.

    * A study conducted by Dr. Reo Christensen of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, found that pornography leaves the impression with its viewers that sex has no relationship to privacy; that it is unrelated to love, commitment or marriage; that bizarre forms of sex are the most gratifying; that sex with animals has an especially desirable flavor; and that irresponsible sex has no adverse consequences.

    * According to the book Media, Children, and the Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, and Clinical Perspectives, research has shown that sexual arousal and accompanying excitement diminish with repeated exposure to sexual scenes. As exposure to commonly shown sexual activities leaves consumers relatively unexcited, they are likely to seek out pornography that features novel and potentially less common sexual acts.

    * In addition, in a series of studies, researchers observed numerous persistent changes in perceptions concerning sexuality and sexual behavior after repeated exposing (i.e., six 1-hours weekly sessions) volunteers to pornography. These include the trivialization of rape as a criminal offense, exaggerated perceptions of the prevalence of most sexual practices, increased callousness toward female sexuality and concerns, dissatisfaction with sexual relationships and diminished caring for and trust in intimate partners.

    * In the book Back From Betrayal, author Jennifer P. Schneider, M.D., asserts that for some dissatisfied people, fantasizing about affairs is the first step to a real affair. She suggests that the fantasization process occupies such a large part of a person’s inner world that little energy is left for the marital relationship.

    * According to Francine Klagsbrun, author of Married People: Staying Together in the Age of Divorce, the reason marriage provides the greatest possibility for intimacy is because marriage is predicated on the idea of exclusivity. And one of the differences between marriage and other friendships is the importance of exclusivity.

    * In the book, Men Confront Pornography, Michael S. Kimmel maintains that pornography is one of the major sources of sexual information that young males have about sexuality and is therefore the central mechanism by which their sexuality has been constructed. “Men can no longer hide behind pornography as harmless fun.”

    NCPCF in Action Special Report, July 1997. Published by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. Copyright © 1997 by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

    The Effects of Prior Pornography Use on Marriage

    Many individuals marry hoping it will cure their compulsion for pornography, fantasy, and masturbation. by Rob Jackson, MS, LPC, LMHC, NCC

    The truth that pornography damages marriages is widely accepted in both professional and ministerial circles. What doesn’t often get addressed, however, is that use of pornography prior to marriage can also have serious repercussions.

    In my experience, most clients who have struggled with pornography prior to marriage offer reasonable and factual disclosures to their fiancees. I believe this is especially true for Christians who realize they are making a lifelong commitment.

    But for believers and non-believers alike, the real challenge is the same: to offer disclosure that covers not only the true depth of injuries sustained from pornography, but those injuries which drove them to use it as an escape in the first place. How can we disclose what we don’t fully comprehend ourselves?

    Often the insidious progression of addiction begins with a sexual trauma, such as exposure to pornography, at a young age. The addiction may develop slowly through episodes that have considerable times of sobriety in between. But even for those with no childhood trauma, sexual sin of any type and duration is a comprehensive wound that affects the body, mind, and spirit. Then, even when a person has stopped acting out behaviorally with pornography, the wounds may still remain.

    Many individuals marry hoping it will cure their compulsion for pornography, fantasy, and masturbation. Some Christians even quote Paul, who said it is better to marry than to struggle with sexual passion.1 The problem with this logic is that for the porn addict, sexual passion is not the problem. Sexual passion is merely the drug being used to medicate the real problems – those wounds from the past that don’t go away. Well-meaning believers who use marriage as an escape from sexual sin are really misleading themselves and those they love.

    Susan asked Eric twice during their engagement if he had been involved with pornography. The first time, he simply said, “No, never.” A few weeks passed and she felt a compelling need to ask again. This time Eric stated that he had used pornography a couple of times, but reiterated it had never become a problem.

    Within a month of marrying, Susan learned that Eric was exposed to pornography as a preteen. His experimentation with pornography increased into young adulthood, and included Internet pornography. Susan felt betrayed. Eric felt ashamed. And their relationship was deeply wounded.

    Perhaps the most obvious injury from pornography occurs in the mind. Once porn is downloaded into our mental hard drive through the portals of the senses, it works like a computer virus, corrupting our thoughts about sexuality. The contaminated files include our thoughts about being male or female, what we believe about our sexuality, how we plan to behave sexually, and whether we have the capacity to remain faithful in marriage.

    In addition to these mental injuries, past pornography use offers significant challenges to our emotions, too. Healthy attachments and bonding become elusive. Many of us now believe that pornography addiction is a type of intimacy disorder that makes connecting with others more difficult.

    If your marriage is challenged on a physical level, lacking either sexual intimacy or integrity, it may be necessary to ask if your partner has ever used pornography. Sexual disorders can have a variety of causes other than prior pornography use, so neither therapists nor spouses should jump to conclusions. In any case, the sooner the couple seeks help the better the prognosis will be.

    The spiritual damage done by pornography use is least visible, but the most devastating to future relationships. In the act of sex, God paints for us a picture of our union with Christ at His return. When we mock the first institution ordained by God (marriage between a man and woman) we subvert the most sacred behavior this side of heaven.

    In view of these many considerations, I hope it is evident that any pornography use – past, present, or future – has the potential to compromise marriage sooner or later.

    If you recognize that past pornography use is affecting your relationships or if you wish to heal these effects before getting married, contact Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department for a free confidential consultation to help you determine if you could benefit from counseling and how to identify a trained counselor in your area.

    Copyright © 2004 Rob Jackson. All rights reserved.

    About the author
    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.

    The Porn Effect

    Unless you're deaf and blind, it's hard not to notice how porn has invaded our culture. by Drew Dyck

    "Can we talk?"

    Ryan's voice was barely audible. He had been unusually quiet in our men's morning prayer meeting. Now he lingered by the door as the rest of the men filed out. Something was weighing heavy on his heart, a private prayer request.

    "I've got a problem," he said once the room cleared. "It's about the Internet...."

    You guessed it. He wasn't fretting over whether to choose dial-up or broadband. He was coming clean about porn. The habit of viewing illicit pictures online was sapping his spiritual life and jeopardizing his marriage. And Ryan wanted prayer and accountability.

    He got it. Ryan plugged into a support system of Christian men. He started avoiding time alone at the computer. He confessed to us when he really struggled, or when he stumbled. Of course he still battled temptation. But soon he was living in victory.

    What made Ryan's actions so effective is that he understood the far-reaching dangers of his habit, and that he couldn't get better on his own. It wasn't just his problem. It posed a threat to those around him as well. He knew something had to be done. And quick.

    Unfortunately some voices in the media would have guys like Ryan believe they didn't have a problem in the first place. Unless you're deaf and blind, it's hard not to notice how porn has invaded our culture. It's ubiquitous. Look at a magazine rack, watch a movie or glance at the pop-ups on your computer (just not too long!). Men are always just a click or flip away from a smorgasbord of flesh. Even if they resist clicking or flipping, the persistent pull of porn has a soul-numbing effect. It becomes normative, somehow a little more acceptable with each indiscretion. As a result, many guys fail to foresee the destructive effects it can have on their lives. Every day they're being sold the insidious lie that porn use is a harmless pleasure or, at worst, a private and petty vice.

    Case in point: a recent article in Psychology Today magazine entitled "You, Me and Porn Make Three."1 The piece actually asserts that porn can be a positive force within marriage, a way for couples to "foster emotional and sexual intimacy." And the intense jealousy and insecurity a wife feels when she discovers her husband's porn habit? Paranoia. Overreaction. For couples unencumbered by convention, we are told, porn can serve as "a healthy outlet for sexual fantasy."

    To drive the point home, the article turns to authors of the latest, best-selling sex books who are all too eager to sing the praises of porn's supposed relational benefits. One "expert" describes a patient's report of being delivered from porn addiction by God as a missed opportunity. With a little coaching, he explains, the porn habit could have infused the client's marriage with new life.

    The article concludes by briefly acknowledging pornography's dangers — but only for obsessive compulsive types, who tend to get carried away with just about anything anyway. Then it chides anyone who would drag morality into the discussion. "Researchers and therapists concur that couples are better off treating the conflict [over pornography] as a practical matter rather than a moral issue." The gist of the article is that if porn doesn't work for you, fine. You can stay in the dark ages. Just don't say that it's wrong. After all, it's not a matter of morality.

    I sat stunned as I finished the article, marveling at porn's latest promotion. If its journey from sleazy sub-world to mainstream cool was hard to believe, this one snapped the cords of credulity. Porn as healthy practice? As marital aide? Larry Flynt a marriage counselor? Yikes!

    Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. There's no shortage of bad advice out there, especially when it comes to relationships. But such views, far fetched though they are, have a particularly corrosive effect for men, who need every ounce of strength available to fight porn's seductive power. A cavalier attitude about this subject can be deadly. Pornography is not a trivial issue. It is not a male rite of passage or an acceptable feature of true masculinity. It's a sin that ruins relationships both with God and others.

    It's a temptation that plumbs the depth of our capacity for self deception. Most Christian guys readily acknowledge the threat it poses to our relationship with God. But it's so easy to fool ourselves into thinking that others won't be affected. It's only a personal problem, we tell ourselves. Since it's done in private, we tend to think the consequences will be ours alone.

    Time for a reality check. If you could talk to my close friend, Rich, he'd tell you how porn plays out in the lives of real people. To begin with, unlike Ryan, looking at porn was a problem Rich kept a secret. Few people knew about it. It started in his teens and he couldn't seem to break the habit as an adult. It wasn't like he had a stack of dirty magazines under his bed or that he spent all day surfing for skin. Occasionally he would sneak off to an adult shop and browse.

    But contra the wisdom of Psychology Today, he found that porn didn't provide the promised "outlet for sexual fantasy." Nor did it "foster intimacy" within his marriage. Instead he found himself wanting more. And more. In time, he completely lost his will to resist against that seductive web of sin. But that's not all he lost. This month he's signing divorce papers because of behaviors that resulted directly from his porn habit.

    Unfortunately Psychology Today wasn't too interested in seeking out stories like Rich's. After all, it would be so unenlightened, so uncool to undermine porn's newfound veneration. The Bible, however, specializes in tipping sacred cows. As I witnessed Rich's wife and children endure a year of hell because of Rich's reckless actions, I couldn't help thinking of James' haunting words penned nearly 2,000 years ago:

    "Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:15).

    There are more people like Rich than the defenders of porn would have us believe, and they are reaping the bitter fruit of their secret sins. A study done by Dolf Zillman of Indiana University and Jennings Bryant of the University of Houston showed that viewing pornography drastically decreased levels of satisfaction with a person's sexual partner. The study also found that daily exposure to porn decreased fidelity and increased the desire for sex without attachment. The alarming thing about the study is that participants were not subjected to excessive amounts of porn. They viewed only "soft-core" pornography for one hour a day.

    Such findings illustrate an essential problem with pornography. Porn isn't just bad because it shows too much. Its evil is compounded because it doesn't show enough. It has no context. There is no attachment to the people it features, no bond of love and commitment to make sexual desire holy and real. Instead it makes people into objects useful only to exploit for personal gratification. So it warps our view of others. No wonder it results in the devaluation of the flesh-and-blood people in our lives.

    Our challenge is to first acknowledge porn for what it is — a destructive sin. Don't believe the lies coming from our culture. If you do have a problem with it, here's my advice: Be a Ryan, not a Rich. Confess the sin. Fresh air and sunlight do wonders for such festering sores. Create a network of godly friends to keep you accountable. You'll look back and be glad you did. And so will the people you love.

    Copyright © 2006 Drew Dyck.

    The Value of Male and Female

    Focus on the Family's guiding principle on sexuality and gender.

    In October 2006, The Focus on the Family Board of Directors approved a new guiding principle on sexuality and gender, titled The Value of Male and Female. Also known as our "6th Pillar, since it joins five long-standing pillars on which this ministry stands, The Value of Male and Female is a bold declaration that gender matters in God's plan for humanity and that even if we don't always live up to God's standards, the grace and love of Christ compels Christians to reach out to those who are lost and hurting with a message of hope and healing.

    Below is the text of the "6th Pillar" and a more detailed description of that it means.
    The Value of Male and Female

    We believe that God created humans in His image, intentionally male and female, each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships. Sexuality is a glorious gift from God to be offered back to Him either in marriage for procreation, union and mutual delight or in celibacy for undivided devotion to Christ. Christians are called to proclaim the truth and beauty of God’s design and the redemption of sexual brokenness in our lives and culture through Jesus Christ.

    "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2
    6th Pillar defined

    We believe that God created humans in His image, intentionally male and female, each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.

    Humans are made for relationship. Just as God is inherently relational (a community of three), we are created in His image and likeness to live in community with Him and others. Both male and female are essential to God’s earthly plan, for at creation He said it was "not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Our God-given purpose is tied to our unique biological sex; therefore, sexuality, the specific God-ordained physical, mental and behavioral traits that characterize individuals as distinctly male or female, is much more than simply what men and women "do"—it is an integral part of our being throughout our entire lifespan.

    The first clause of the pillar emphasizes the fact that God has made us as differentiated beings, equal in worth, to complement one another. While individually every human has inestimable value and shows forth God’s image, our gender complementarity present an even fuller picture of God’s multifaceted nature. Relationships between men and women demonstrate both unity and diversity, characteristics that derive their ultimate meaning from the Trinity. At a human level, the unity and diversity between the sexes find their deepest expression in marriage, which is intended to model the same sort of holy, exclusive, permanent and life-giving intimacy that will one day characterize the union of Christ with His bride, the redeemed and glorified Church (Ephesians 5).

    Sexuality is a glorious gift from God to be offered back to Him either in marriage for procreation, union and mutual delight or in celibacy for undivided devotion to Christ.

    The second clause is concerned with clearing out the false notions about sexuality perpetuated by our culture (i.e., that extra-marital sexual activity is "good" and "normal," etc.). As Christians, we believe in Christ's lordship over all of life, including our bodies and sexual expression. Our responsibility is to learn about God’s plan for the two sexes, and then, rather than merely avoiding immorality, live out our sexuality in ways that honor both God and our fellow human beings. Whether married or single, biblically appropriate sexual expression requires discipline and a commitment to pursuing a life of virtue. Sex is a gift from God, but not a gift to do with as we please. We must exercise biblical stewardship over the gift of our sexuality. This applies to four major areas:

    Procreation (Genesis 1:28; Malachi 2:15): It is God’s good plan, hence normative, for husband and wife to bear children. He has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. Scripture declares that children are a blessing from His hand. By design, sex, conception and childbirth are intrinsically linked.

    Union (Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-6): It is God’s good plan for sex to unite and bond spouses in a unique and sacred way. Scripture tells us that the one-flesh union between husband and wife in marriage symbolizes Jesus’ unity with His bride, the Church.

    Mutual delight (Song of Solomon 5:16; Proverbs 5:18-19): It is God’s good plan that sex be generously shared between spouses for their mutual benefit. Husbands and wives must not let their sexual relationship be informed or guided by worldly standards, but by Scripture—always seeking the good of the other and being united in faithfulness to one another. Sex must never be used to oppress, take advantage of or wrong another person.

    Celibacy (I Corinthians 7:32-34; Matthew 19:11-12): It is God’s good plan that unmarried individuals (whether seeking marriage or called to lifelong singleness) remain celibate. Like married people, singles are called to steward their sexuality as a gift from God. They do so through faithful devotion to Christ. Foregoing or awaiting the intimacies of marriage as a single person affirms the exclusive and covenant relationship of marriage and all it symbolizes.

    Christians are called to proclaim the truth and beauty of God’s design and the redemption of sexual brokenness in our lives and culture through Jesus Christ.

    Living out God's design for sexuality in our own lives and families builds healthy communities. More than merely denouncing sin, we must be motivated to proclaim God’s divine plan for sexuality while at the same time holding fast to the rules He has clearly spelled out in the Bible for the protection of our well-being and the well-ordering of society. Churches, as communities of believers who hold to abstinence before marriage and to lifelong marital fidelity, must respond with grace and compassion as well as conviction and truth to those who are confused or who have deviated from biblical standards of sexuality. Similarly, we must encourage those who struggle to live according to these shared beliefs.

    Christ offers forgiveness to all who have sinned, and this promise of reconciliation is the greatest hope we have in fighting the sexual culture of self and its attendant baggage—abortion, promiscuity, pornography and so on. To excuse sexual lust or brokenness as "acceptable" because it is common is to make the Cross—and Christ’s standards—powerless in the Christian life. When we draw from the model of love lived by Christ (sacrificial, other-centered and self-giving) and seek ongoing sanctification according to Romans 12:1 and 2 Peter 1:3-8, we can be empowered to live out a "healthy sexuality" in increasing measure throughout life.

    Copyright © 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

    Virtual Unfaithfulness

    Why shouldn’t a couple use pornography to increase their sexual excitement and so enhance their lovemaking? by J. Budziszewski

    Pornography was once a vice of the fabulously wealthy. No one else could afford it. When Tiberius Caesar wanted to indulge, he had to purchase special hand-drawn scrolls from Egypt, or have young men and women who were trained in sexual practices brought into his palace to perform. Today, all that has changed. Everyone can afford pornography. Video rental stores have special sections just for pornographic movies. In two clicks, anyone can see anything on the Internet. To say that pornography is easy to obtain is an understatement; it’s in our faces whether we want it or not. A child can’t go into the grocery store with his mother without being exposed to it. We live in a Pornotopia.

    In Pornotopia, ordinary folk ask questions which would never have occurred to ordinary folk in other times, questions which cast doubt on the very meaning of marriage. Questions like this one: Why shouldn’t a husband and wife use pornography to increase their sexual excitement and so enhance their lovemaking? For instance, why shouldn’t they watch a pornographic movie together before going to bed? After all, it’s for a good cause, and at least they’re doing it together.

    Not only is this wrong, it doesn’t work. The wife and husband aren’t "doing it together," it doesn’t enhance their lovemaking, it reduces their sexual excitement in each other – and it undermines what can increase their delight. Let’s consider each of the four points in turn.

    Why they aren’t doing it together

    Come bedtime, John and Joan indulge in pornography. John becomes excited by gazing at the woman in the pictures instead of Joan; Joan becomes excited by imagining the man in the pictures instead of John. Then they go to bed and have intercourse. The question is, who are they having it with? They may be having sex at the same time, but they plainly aren’t having it with each other. John is having it with the fantasy woman, Joan with the fantasy man. The fact that the fantasy partners are not physically present is merely a detail.

    We would be shocked by the suggestion that John and Joan should hire a male and female pair of prostitutes for the night, warm up with the prostitutes, then roll over simultaneously and complete the sexual experience with each other. Yet that is in essence what they are doing. They are having sex with other people even though no one is present but themselves.

    Why it doesn’t enhance their lovemaking

    Only a generation ago, the expression "making love" could be used for any of the endearing things that lovers do: holding hands, promising moons, doing things for each other, whispering sweetly in each other’s ears. It meant any experience in which the lovers lost themselves for each other, because sacrifice of self is what love means. Today, unfortunately, we use the expression "making love" only for sex. This is misleading. Of course sex can be a way of making love, but it can also be a way of destroying it.

    The reason conjugal sex can be a way of making love is that the husband loses himself in the sheer delight of serving and pleasuring his wife, and the wife in the sheer delight of serving and pleasuring her husband. By contrast, when the spouses have pornographic intercourse, neither of them is fully aware of the other; each is locked tightly in self. John is pleasuring himself, not Joan, by imagining that Joan is not Joan; Joan is pleasuring herself, not John, by imagining that John is not John. This isn’t making love, but masturbating with the spouse’s body.

    Why it reduces their sexual excitement

    By now it should be clear that although pornographic intercourse may have something to do with the sexual excitement of the spouses, it has nothing to do with their sexual excitement in each other. Each spouse is really having sex with someone else. And this is but half of the problem.

    The other half is that pornographic fantasies become addictive. Consider John. If he increases his excitement during sex by pretending that Joan is someone else, he will become more and more dependent on the fantasy, and less and less capable of being aroused by Joan herself. Not only that, but his fantasy will rapidly lose its power. To become excited then, he will need a new fantasy.

    At first it may be sufficient just to imagine another woman. But that too gets stale, because the unreal never has the vitality of the real. Pretty soon, therefore, John’s fantasies will have to get kinkier. He will have to imagine not just a different woman, but a different kind of woman – not just having sex, but having another kind of sex – in order to feel excitement at all. He may find himself wanting pornography not only before sex, but during it. In fact, fantasy may no longer be enough He may find himself wanting his pornographic fantasies to become real.

    How it undermines what could truly increase their delight

    Sometimes a husband and wife turn to pornography simply because they have difficulty enjoying their sexual relationship, and they expect the pornography to fix the problem. Alas, not only does the use of pornography destroy what it is supposed to fix, as we have seen; it also distracts the spouses from working on what really does need fixing.

    Sexual frustration may arise from many causes. Perhaps the couple approaches sex in the spirit of selfishness rather than giving. Perhaps they have unrealistic expectations about sex. Perhaps one of them is ill, grieving, stressed, depressed, or afraid of growing old. Sometimes sexual frustrations arise from other relationship problems, like quarreling, unfaithfulness, or never taking time to talk.

    By the grace of God, a couple that faces its problems can work them out. Unfortunately, pornography is not a way to face them, but to make them worse.

    Copyright © 2000 J. Budziszewski All rights reserved.

    About the author
    J. Budziszewski is an associate professor in the government and philosophy departments of the University of Texas at Austin

    What I Didn't Know About Men

    Help for every woman who's ever been completely baffled by the man in her life.

    by Shaunti Feldhahn

    Have you ever been totally confused by something the man in your life has said or done? Have you ever wondered, looking at his rapidly departing back, Why did that make him so angry? Have you ever been perplexed by your husband's defensiveness when you ask him to stop working so much? Yeah? Me too.

    But now, after conducting spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men, I can tell you that the answers to those and dozens of other common perplexities are all related to what is going on in your man's inner life. Most are things he wishes you knew but doesn't know how to tell you. In some cases, they're things he has no idea you don't know.

    Lightbulb On! It turned out that these men shared some surprisingly common inner wiring. At their secret inner core, many had similar fears and concerns, feelings and needs.

    I discovered that there were many things I thought I understood about men — but really didn't. In several areas, my understanding was purely surface-level. Once I got below the surface and into specifics, everything changes. I felt like a cartoon character who suddenly had a lightbulb over my head.

    Even better, it turned out that those revelations were mostly about things that my own husband always wished I knew but couldn't figure out how to explain. And that was a common refrain from most of the men I talked to. Although I still make many mistakes in my relationship with my husband — and will continue to! — finally grasping these things has hopefully helped me to better appreciate and support him in the way that he needs.

    I want that lightbulb to go on for you as well.
    Seven Revelations

    So here are seven revelations — followed by translations from "surface level" to "in practice" — that you, like me, may not have realized before.
    Surface Understanding #1: Men need respect.

    What that means in practice: Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected.

    Surface Understanding #2: Men are insecure.

    What that means in practice: Despite their "in control" exterior, men often feel like impostors and are insecure that their inadequacies will be discovered.

    Surface Understanding #3: Men are providers.

    What that means in practice: Even if you personally made enough income to support the family's lifestyle, it would make no difference to the mental burden he feels to provide.

    Surface Understanding #4: Men want more sex.

    What That Means in Practice: Your sexual desire for your husband profoundly affects his sense of well-being and confidence in all areas of life.

    Surface Understanding #5: Men are visual.

    What that means in practice: Even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward live and recollected images of other women.

    Surface Understanding #6: Men are unromantic clods.

    What that means in practice: Actually, most men enjoy romance (sometimes in different ways) and want to be romantic — but hesitate because they doubt they can succeed.

    Surface Understanding #7: Men care about appearance.

    What that means in practice: You don't need to be a size 3, but your man does need to see you making the effort to take care of yourself — and he will take on significant cost or inconvenience in order to support you.

    The more we understand the men in our lives, the better we can support and love them in the way they need to be loved. In other words, this revelation is supposed to change and improve us.
    Excerpted from For Women Only © 2004 by Veritas Enterprises. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

    You Are Her Prince Charming

    by Lysa TerKeurst

    Almost every woman can recall a time during her girlhood when she dreamed of a prince who would ride into her life, sweep her off her feet, and carry her off into the sunset. It happened for Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, and the list goes on. Our minds are programmed from a young age that it will happen to us. Then one day you came, probably not on a horse, but nonetheless you came, her Prince Charming.

    The only thing is, in the storybooks, the prince and his beloved ride off into the sunset while the words "and they lived happily ever after" dance across the page. We never hear how things go after that. The falling in love part is fun, but what about after the storybook wedding? Did they have to work through personality differences and financial struggles? Did either of them have morning breath? Did she gain a few unwanted pounds and did his thick hair ever thin? Did they have differing opinions about child rearing, churchgoing, or whether a cookie is better with chocolate chunks or chocolate chips?

    Chances are they did, and our marriages do too. It is appropriate that we call the process of romance "falling in love." That gives us a clue that it's not going to be easy the whole way through. Think about the word falling. Have you ever heard of someone falling into anything without a few bumps and bruises?

    For some there are more bumps and bruises than others. Art and I have had more than our share. One thing we've learned is how important it is for each of us to rely on God's steadfast, never-changing love. While we love each other deeply, there always will be ways our love for each other falls short. You see, only God can be God. If our love for each other were altogether perfect and fulfilling, we wouldn't need God. Only God can give you what your deepest longings cry out for.

    Some people search their whole lives for the perfect "soulmate," thinking if they found just the right match, all their needs would be met and they would finally be happy. In our throwaway society, many marriages are discarded when one or both partners realize their partner cannot meet their expectations. But no human relationship can fill the God-sized void we all have in our hearts.

    Stan and his wife, Molly, were friends of ours for several of our early marriage years. They were active in church and even leaders in our Sunday school class where Stan led a men's accountability group and was respected for his extensive knowledge of the Bible. On the outside their marriage seemed picture-perfect. They had a thriving business, were devoted church members, had a growing family, and enjoyed what seemed to be a happy marriage.

    But unbeknownst to his wife or any of us, tiny cracks were forming in Stan's foundation. While he had lots of God in his head, he had lots of questions in his heart. He grew restless and discontent. Soon he'd rationalized his way into the arms of another woman. Before long he left Molly, his children, and his church family for this seemingly perfect love that he'd found. We were all stunned, and Molly was left devastated and heartbroken.

    What was Stan looking for? He was looking to have his deepest heart cries answered and fulfilled. For a time it seemed this new relationship was going to meet his needs, right all his wrongs, and bring excitement into his life. Maybe for a while its pleasures seemed promising. But then the excitement waned and the newness wore off, and Stan started seeking pleasure in yet another woman's arms.

    I don't know what ever happened to Stan but I do know this: He will never find what he's looking for until he enters into a real relationship with the Lord. A relationship where his head knowledge of God is matched by his heart's surrender to Him. Only God can fill a man's deepest desires and prove to be unfailing in every way. Beth Moore says, "The Word of God uses the phrase unfailing love thirty-two times, and not once is it attributed to humans. Every single use of the phrase refers to God and God alone. As rich as is the love that others can extend, only God's love is unfailing."

    Do you ever catch yourself wondering if the grass might be greener in other pastures? Do you ever feel restless and discontented? Do you ever spend more time focusing on the negatives of your wife more than her positives? This is dangerous ground. Satan is waiting to trap you in these kinds of feelings. Colossians 3:1-4 (New International Version) says, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

    Did you catch that? You are an heir of the King.

    You are a prince, not made in the likeness of a storybook fairytale character but made in the likeness of almighty God. You will appear with Christ "in glory." Therefore, set your mind and heart on thinking thoughts that honor Christ. Colossians 3:12-15 instructs us by saying, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."

    In my NIV Life Application Study Bible, the commentary on these verses says, "The word rule comes from the language of athletics: Paul tells us to let Christ's peace be the umpire or referee in our hearts. Our hearts are the center of conflict because there our feelings and desires clash: our fears and hopes, distrust and trust, jealousy and love. How can we live with these constant conflicts and live as God wants? Paul explains that we must decide between conflicting elements using the rule of peace. Which choice will promote peace in our souls?"

    Will you choose the heart of your princess over all others?

    What choices are YOU in the process of making regarding your marriage?

    Will you take your rightful place as a Prince of the King?

    Will you remain faithful in your pursuit of godliness?

    If so, your marriage will be a beautiful example that happily-ever-afters really do exist.