Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Emotional Jackpot You Can Give Your Spouse Today

Bells go off and coins clang as they fill up the tray of the slot machine. You hit the jackpot.

That's how it feels emotionally when your spouse can tell you're having a hard time and, instead of turning away and leaving you alone in it, they connect by empathizing on a deep level. You can tell by what they say, by the look in their eye, or by the way they squeeze your hand or hug you that they're letting in some of what you're feeling. They get it, or at least they're trying to. 

Suddenly, you're not alone in your distress anymore. And just as quickly, that distress isn't the same anymore, it's somehow more bearable. And even in that bitter moment, the connection you feel with your spouse is sweet. 

That's what it's like to hit the emotional jackpot.

You can get better at providing this kind of profound experience for your spouse. In fact, they will bond to you more securely than ever as you become their most reliable and potent way to hit the emotional jackpot. 

Here's how to do it:

Look for opportunities to encourage your spouse to talk about a time that was upsetting for them.
  • When they bring something up, encourage them to talk out the hurt rather than trying to quickly move on from the uncomfortable topic. 
  • Proactively ask about an event you know they found painful. 
  • Explore in a general way what experiences from the past still eat at them, whether or not those experiences involve you. 
If you have the courage to run into the fire of their feelings instead of fleeing their distress, you are giving them an incredible gift. You can't rewind time and take away their suffering, but now they have the opportunity to no longer suffer alone!

As they recall the events, listen for what it was like for them emotionally to go through that experience. If they don't spontaneously mention how they felt at the time, ask. Check to see if they're feeling some of that same emotion now as they think back on and talk about that time. Also ask what they were feeling in their body at the time and where they felt it. Was it in their chest? Their gut? Somewhere else? Are they feeling some of those same sensations now?

This gives you all you the raw material you need to practice deep empathy. Do it by letting into your own heart and body some of what they went through and are going through even now.

Let them know you've let in what they're feeling in any or all of the following ways:
  • Let yourself make an "ugh", "ouch", or "mmhh" noise that goes along with what you feel.
  • Let your face--especially your eyes and mouth--convey the pain and compassion you feel inside.
  • Give some other form of physical comfort such as holding or squeezing their hand or embracing them and holding them tight (if it seems they're receptive to that).
Ask them what it's like to be on the receiving end of deep empathy. Did it feel like an emotional jackpot as I predicted?

After you've tried it a time or two, share this post with them and ask them to return the favor. What's it like for you to be on the receiving end?

You and they might find that it's harder to implement than it sounds. But it's certainly something worth practicing to improve as a skill.

Let us know how it goes for you--and please pass along this post along to others. Every single one of us, as human beings, is walking around too lonely in our suffering. There's not a soul I know who couldn't use more empathy, especially deep empathy of this sort.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Life After Porn Project, Day 5: What's Life Like Off Porn 6 Months?

From Gerald:

The best things are the freedom! Joy! Extra confidence! Inner peace! Greater satisfaction when I pray, study scripture, worship. Extra true happiness that comes into my life naturally because I'm not working so hard to suppress the addiction.

I've tried to kick my porn habit for years, and I could go three weeks, sometimes even up to six weeks... but at age 58, this is the longest I've ever been off porn since getting involved in it as a teenager.

Since I got it out in the open, it hasn't been as much of a struggle. Satan had me hoodwinked that I could get over this without sharing it with my wife. Finally, after so many years of struggling, I decided it was worth a try. Telling her was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

The next two months were some of the hardest of our marriage. We went walking for an hour every night from 10 to 11 pm. We kept talking about her feelings about it. With so little sleep I was a walking zombie at work during those months. But finally she was able to rest a little bit easier about it. It felt like a infidelity to her, and was very hard.

Now, six months later, it's not totally back to normal for us, but we're drawing closer and closer. If something is an issue for either of us, we're working through it. Learning to communicate earlier on about all of our struggles instead of leaving them buried and churning.

Before, if temptation got to a 1 or 2 out of 10, I'd entertain it just a bit, and it seemed pretty tame. But staying caught up in it blinded me to the momentum that was building. All of a sudden, 3-4-5 all the way to 10, and I'd be back looking at hard core images and I'd end up masturbating. Oh, crap. Then I'd be trying to get back on track again, hoping that I'd do better this time.

These days, I still get hits of temptation. But I address them when they're at a 1 or 2 by seeking support, being open with my wife, and knowing that other people are praying for me.

And one more thing: It's been good for me to go through my 12-step program. I attended for years, off and on, before I opened up to my wife. The momentum toward true recovery built slowly as I gradually made those ideas and practices a part of my life.

One of the most helpful parts was the fourth step inventory. I admitted to myself all my behaviors and cataloged them. It wasn't fun. It's not pretty, those five pages of actions I'm not proud of. It made me admit to myself how out of control my life has been.

But now, months later, I'm burning the list one page at a time. I'm free and not ruled by that anymore. And really enjoying life as a result.

Thanks Gerald. Love the way you put it: "extra true happiness". You've inspired us!

Could stronger relationships boost your recovery? Check out our free program: Love Heals Porn.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Life After Porn Project, Day 4: What It's Like to Be Off Porn 115 Days

From Clint:

Let me start by saying, "been there and done that!" It was just about a year ago I had a major reset/meltdown /relapse/bender, whatever you want to call it. I not only flirted with my old enemies, I embraced them and welcomed them into my home with open arms. I went down the deep, dark hole in a major way. 

I felt all the "normal" emotions of the addiction spiral: self-loathing, remorse, guilt, despair, and most devastating I believe, is lack of hope. I had no hope that I would ever be able to kick this awful addiction. I had no hope that I would ever be able to look my wife in the eye and tell her I was clean. I had no hope that I would ever be able to hold my head high and not be ashamed. 

I reached out to Mark shortly after that, because I was in the deepest pits of despair and I was desperate. I needed someone I could sound off to, someone I could share with and ask advice from. I went back to my Church's 12-step program, but to me, though I fully believe in the concepts taught, and believe in the healing power of a higher being (the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ), I didn't feel that I was learning the tools and techniques I needed to learn so I could overcome this addiction. 

Like I said, it was a dark time of despair and shame. 

Luckily, I had been able, by sheer will, to "white-knuckle" for extended periods of time, so after that dark time, I didn't keep using, and was able to put several months of "sobriety" together. Unfortunately, I didn't feel sober in my heart. I wasn't clear in my head, but felt like I had a fog in my head, and my mind was always in turmoil and conflict with myself. On the one hand, I wanted to be clean, and was trying to "work my program", on the other hand, I kept having the bad thoughts, and had to struggle just to stay "clean". 

Then, in my mind, a miracle happened. I actually had a "slip up". It was not a full on binge and as soon as it happened, I came clean to my wife about it. However, it seemed to have been the wake up call that I really needed. It prompted me to reach out to a therapist about a program I had heard him talk about, that was a group that he runs to give men the tools to overcome their addiction. 

That was the best decision I've ever made. I finally learned the tools and principles to help me get clean and stay clean for 115 days, now! But now I have hope and confidence that I can stay clean. 

I'm not saying that I don't have flashes of the bad thoughts, but now I know what to do when I have them, and how to negate those thoughts and feelings, and get back on a safe path. 

My message is, there is hope. Whatever you do, do not give up hope. Keep fighting, and one day, you'll have your "miracle moment" when you'll discover the right program that will help restore your sobriety and hope. 

Until then, Keep Fighting! 

Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for recovery Clint--it's contagious! Sounds so nice to have reached a point of solid sobriety where every day isn't such a battle anymore. Clint was generous and brave enough to share his story in this post earlier this year about slipping back into porn after six years off it. Great cautionary tale for everyone. It's fun to celebrate with you now that you have a few months under your belt. It's clear that you've treated your setback as an opportunity and you've come back even stronger this time. And in a confident, peaceful way that is more sustainable. Way to go! 

Could stronger relationships boost your recovery? Check out our free program: Love Heals Porn.