What I Learned from 50 Shades Darker

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I went to see 50 Shades Darker with Jeanette last night in Hollywood.

Two years ago I wrote this blog post.

I was even asked to do a sermon at Daybreak Church about the movie for their AT THE MOVIES SERIES. You can watch that HERE.

We went to the 10pm show and the first thing that stood out to me was the theater was filled with 90% women. I am not talking women with their husbands or boyfriends. I am talking women out with their girlfriends like they were about to watch Magic Mike or Bridesmaids.

Odd.

The person in front of me buying a ticket was a woman, maybe 30 years old by herself at 10pm on a Thursday night.

I had this mindset that the movie was going to attract a bunch of dudes, but I realized that women read the books and women are the ones pouring in to see the movies. That part scares me a bit.

Just a bit.

Back to my story…

The previews rolled. Three of them:

Beauty and The Beast
Baywatch
Girls Trip

Disney’s new Beauty and The Beast before Fifty Shades of Grey? Seems odd.

Not if you just read what I wrote about who is watching these Shades of Grey movies. Girls Trip looks to be one of the raunchiest previews I have seen in a long time.

Now to the movie.

The movie starts out with Christian Grey trying to get Anastasia Steele back. They come to terms with a deal:

No Rules
No Punishment
No Secrets

Throughout the movie, I wrote down one-liners that stood out to me either from Christian or Anastasia. It was dark in the theater, so don’t get mad at me if I didn’t get the quote exactly how it was said, but I am pretty dang close on most of these:

(A) It’s all wrong, all of it is wrong.

(A) It’s not a relationship. It’s ownership.

(A) Don’t crowd me; I need space.

(A) Take me to the red room.

(A) It means the world to me when you open up to me.

(A) Thank you for telling me.

(A) You forbidding it is not us talking about it.

(C) I don’t like strangers gawking at you.

(C) I get off on pushing women who look like my mom.

(C) My arrival into the world isn’t something I feel like celebrating.
In this second movie, you still have a very broken, confused Christian Grey who wants what he lost in the first movie.

Anastasia knows she should not go back to him but can’t refuse. The old saying, “Men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love,” sums up this movie. Anastasia’s refusal for crazy dark sex in the first movie is flipped around in this movie several times when she pushes Christian to even darker sex.

The movie is really slow.

There are some other story lines, but for the most part, you see two very dysfunctional people in a dysfunctional relationship that ends with a proposal, engagement ring, and a YES.

You may think that is great and you are cheering them on…right?

Well, maybe the ladies in front of me were. But for Jeanette and I who have been married now almost 19 years and watched so many of our friend’s divorce, we couldn’t cheer this couple.

What did I learn from 50 Shades Darker?

Here are five things:

1. Sex doesn’t solve problems.

In this movie, Anastasia asks a lot of questions and gets very few answers from Christian about his past, his secrets, and his emotions.

He avoids and dodges a lot of point blank questions from Anastasia. Instead of conversation and communication between the two, you see they avoid them and jump in bed together.

WRONG.

Never happens like this in real life.

Those men who are married for 19 years (or any amount of time for that matter) can relate to what I am saying.

If you and your wife are in a fight and it’s not even a big one, wouldn’t it be great just to have sex and then make up the next day?

Sex isn’t a band-aid and in this movie you only see them having sex instead of communicating. Anastasia engages in crazier sex than she is typically comfortable with in hopes that Christian will open up more, but he never does.

Don’t think that passion and sex can be enough to withstand a broken relationship. It is temporary and that band-aid is going to be ripped off because sex is not going to solve your problems; often it is going to create more of them.

2. One-sided relationships won’t work.

Do you have that friend that always needs something from you?
Do you have that friend that always talks to you, but never listens to what you say?
Do you have that person that you alway have to pay for?
Do you date that person who could care less about your kids, but you’ve invested in their kids?

There has to be give-and-take. If it is not 50/50, it has to be pretty close for a good relationship to work.

This relationship with Anastasia and Christian is tough to watch because it is one-sided.

The quote I mentioned above from Anastasia sums this up. “It means the world to me when you open up to me.”

Christian thinks he is comprising and trying to give into her requests by taking away some of his rules and allowing her to get closer to him. Ultimately he doesn’t know how to open up and communicate and show any emotions and that is why this doesn’t work.

If your spouse or the person you are dating is not willing to comprise, give in, let their guard down, meet you half way, do something you enjoy–you are in trouble, just like Christian and Anastasia.

3. Relationships require hard work.

Christian works hard at winning Anastasia back in this movie, but I wish he would work hard on diving into his past, his issues, and his pain.

I tell couples that are thinking about marriage that marriage is hard work. No one talked to me about that when I was growing up and dating. I don’t like even how this movie ends with the two of them getting engaged, one might leave the theater happy for them, but I didn’t.

Neither one of them are willing to do the hard work that marriage is going to take.

Instead, they settle for band-aids on all their wounds. As a result, their many scars will never heal and their relationship won’t make it.

Your relationship won’t work if you both are not willing to do the hard work that marriage requires.

4. People need other people.

My friend put it on a T-shirt. And I wrote a whole book about it.

The friends and family of the couple in this film just celebrate these two broken people becoming one broken mess.

No one speaks up.
No one says, “I OBJECT.”

I recently had a guy steal from me with Facebook ads. His agency was a total joke and I was in trouble and didn’t know what to do. So I contacted a top agency recommend by Facebook themselves. The CEO was willing to get on the phone with me and offer up advice at $3.00 a minute.

I was impressed actually with the way that phone call was set up and organized. Super legit. At the rate of $180 bucks an hour.

Cheaper than a lawyer, I thought to myself that I should do this.

You know how many hours I spend talking to people who ultimately won’t listen to anything I say? A lot. In fact, in 2017, I said I was done investing so many hours trying to help others that don’t want help.

It is just a fact-most people don’t have anyone to call when they are in a bind or when they are in a messed up relationship that they don’t know how to get out of.

Not one person in this film helps Christian or Anastasia realize they are not right for each other, that they should not be in a relationship right now, that they should work on their issues.

That’s sad, but that is real life for many of you.

You not only don’t have people in your life you feel comfortable asking those questions to; you don’t want to hear what they have to say anyway.

It’s amazing what happens when you pay $3 a minute for advice. You listen. At least I did.

I thought maybe more people would listen to me when they call me in the middle of the night because their marriage is on the rocks and I point them towards the direction I feel they should go.

But, they don’t do it.

Ultimately, whether you pay $3 bucks a minute or you get it for free. You need other people in your life.

If you are dating and thinking about marriage, you need to ask your friends and family (and kids if you have them) what they think of the other person, what they think of you two together, what their concerns are and then LISTEN and TAKE ACTION.

People need other people in good times and bad times.

5. You can’t fix people.

People need other people, but that doesn’t mean people can get you to change or someone can fix you.

Anastasia honestly believes she can get Christian to change. It was hard for me to watch because one of the things she does over and over in the movie is give into the things she was once against.

So, to get Christian to change, she pushes him for darker and darker sex knowing that in the end, it is not a good thing for him.

You and I can’t fix people.

Marriage won’t solve your problems.

If you are fighting and not seeing eye to eye dating, you are not going to get married and just have those problem solved. Instead, they will be compounded.

It’s an ego thing to think you can fix someone because you can’t. If you are healthy and believe that by dating an unhealthy person they will become healthy, you are WRONG.

They will most likely drag you down instead.

Chances are you both are dysfunctional like Christian and Anastasia and instead of tying the knot, these two should be separate and both work on themselves before getting into a relationship.

My friend told me he shouldn’t be in a relationship and needed to work on some things. I agreed. He’s still in a relationship because that is more fun than doing those other things that require deeper work.

My friend asked me to marry him and his girlfriend. I said I would do it, but a few weeks later I sat down with him and said while I would do the wedding, I didn’t think he should marry her.

That was super tough.

I wondered, do I lose a friend over this if I say don’t marry her and I won’t do the wedding?

Do I just suck it up and marry them because that is the Christian thing to do so this couple can have sex?

You think I am exaggerating?

You know how many dumb things I have heard from people who told me their pastor found out they were living together or having sex and then just said, “Let me just marry you right now so you can stop living in sin.”

DUMB.

Marriage, like I said about sex on my first point, doesn’t solve your problems.

My buddy was divorced not long after the wedding I performed.

It was sad to watch, but I feel like so many Christian kids (especially) have been brainwashed to believe that marriage is the answer. That marriage will “fix anything.”

Date for a long time.
Ask hard questions.
Look for red flags.

Ask anyone and everyone you know what they think of him or her and you together. Don’t get caught up in the “I need to get married just so I can have sex” stuff.

Take your time and realize that the red flags you see while you are dating will still be there when you are married and you can’t fix the other person.

I don’t know how the trilogy ends. I can only imagine there is a wedding in movie three, continued dysfunction, and then probably kids at some point thrown into this ugly mess.

Anastasia deserves better and so do the girls in the theater watching this movie last night with all their girlfriends. So do you.

Don’t settle.
Hold true to your standards and beliefs.
Don’t compromise for a man.
Don’t say yes to him when he doesn’t respond to your needs.

And lastly, stop having sex today outside marriage.

Yea, its easier said than done, but it’s the truth.

There is a time and place for it and outside of that complicates things and brings in many other things that you shouldn’t worry about until you have that commitment in marriage.

In the movie, Christian asks Anastasia why she waited to have sex. She said, “I was waiting for something exceptional.” Instead, she ended up with Christian Grey.

Set the bar high.
Exceptional is a good place to start.
Don’t end up with a Christian Grey.

Wrapping this up because it is now 2:00am. Fifty Shades Darker isn’t a movie or a book just about sex (sure there is a lot of sex in the movie).

I don’t recommend the movie.
I do NOT recommend the movie just because of the sex.
It wasn’t a good movie, period.

As you can see from what I just wrote for the past two hours, I didn’t talk about whips, spanking, beads, dungeons, or anything like that.

Nope.

The thing that stood out to me all revolved around two people in a relationship who can’t communicate with one another, so instead they just have sex. In the end that won’t work for them and it won’t work for you either.

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

stay-goThis question in the title of this blog is a tough one. I think every marriage is different, and the ways each one of us are able to handle these types of large questions – especially when our marriages have deteriorated to the point where we’re asking them in the first place – depends on our relationship, our makeup, and just who we are in general.

I have seen couples who got through affairs and I have seen couples who haven’t. My friend Rick Reynolds runs AffairRecovery.com, a great organization that’s helping with this issue. He spells out the 6 different types of affairs here.

A lot of times there are underlying issues that lead to the affair (for example, we often discover that addiction is present for a lot of people who cheat). Whether you stay or go is going to be up to you and no one else (Tweet This).

No matter who we are, we’re going to make mistakes; the tendency to do that is only going to increase when you’re dealing with the aftermath of an affair. In this terrific article, Leslie Harde of Affair Recovery has spelled out twenty common mistakes that a hurt spouse can make:

  1. Believing that, once your spouse agrees to end the affair or the behavior, it is truly ended.
  2. Demanding that your spouse pledge 100% commitment to the marriage right at the moment of disclosure.
  3. Bludgeoning your spouse with guilt, thinking that this will be helpful.
  4. Drawing too much security from changed phone numbers and email addresses.
  5. Believing that you can keep your mate safe and away from temptation.
  6. Trying to compete with the affair partner, pornography, or other behavior.
  7. Trashing the affair partner.
  8. Trying to convince your spouse that nobody will ever love him/her as much as you do.
  9. Using your children or grandchildren as pawns.
  10. Beating up the unfaithful mate with guilt, shame, or the opinions of others to keep them from leaving.
  11. Making threats.
  12. Trying to drive the affair partner off by personal confrontation.
  13. Contacting the affair partner and then believing them.
  14. Believing there is a simple formula or a set course to fix the problem.
  15. Believing that the threat of exposure will be enough to convince your mate to quit the behavior.
  16. Trying to get all the unfaithful spouse’s friends on your side.
  17. Trying to “woo” your spouse back and expecting instant gratitude and immediate results.
  18. Believing that you, the faithful spouse, are “blameless” and the only one who has things to forgive.
  19. Believing that your unfaithful mate will find you more appealing if you get attention from others.
  20. Believing that if you, the faithful spouse, should or can do the same thing

You should really check out that whole article, and if your marriage – or the marriage of someone you know or love – is being affected by infidelity, be sure to check out Recover.org.

For those of you who are not dealing with affair: thank God. We have a great workshop for married couples that can help strengthen your relationship and draw the two of you even closer together. It’s called Fighting for My Marriage. You can learn more about that workshop at FightingforMyMarriage.com.

At XXXchurch, we believe strong marriages are a cornerstone for individual freedom, so please check out these great resources and do the work you need to do to keep your marriage going strong.

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I’m Turning 41 and Here’s How I Want to Celebrate

birthdayI turned 40 years old last year, right before Christmas. That means I will turn 41 this year, right after Christmas. Just kidding. It’s always a few days before Christmas. I kind of like being 40. Not sure what 41 will bring, but this year seemed to fly by.

We launched My Pilgrimage in 2016, and I realized most of you might not know what went into this launch and how we did it. My Pilgrimage is not just a book, guidebook, and video course; it also involves online Pilgrimage small groups.

We wanted to slowly roll it out and interact with people as they were going through the material and be able to make adjustments along the way. So, we broke out our email list, in no particular order, and slowly offered it to a few people each month.

Then in September, we did a public release where it became available to people on our website, regardless if they were on our mailing list or not.

We learned a lot and as we look at 2017, we are going to launch Recover in a similar fashion.

One of the things that we did during our public launch of My Pilgrimage was on opening day of the release, we offered Recover for free for anyone who bought. A lot of people took advantage of this and we mentioned a few things during that release.

1. We said My Pilgrimage would not be available again publicly until 2017.

2. We said when we launched Recover, we would do the same thing on opening day, but offer My Pilgrimage for free.

We don’t think we will have a public release of Recover until later next year, so I have something for you!

We can call it “Craig’s Birthday Day Special.”

Starting December 20th for 24 hours – Recover will be available for purchase.

We have small groups starting in the new year and are so excited about this. If you purchase Recover on December 20th, we will give your spouse or loved one My Pilgrimage for free! This is the only way to get My Pilgrimage and the very first chance to get Recover.

I promise, I won’t blow up your email for the next 10 days … but here is what I will do:

If you are on our email list …

Tomorrow – I’ll send you an email explaining all about Recover.

Monday – I’ll send you an email explaining what My Pilgrimage is and includes.

Tuesday – I will email you to let you know when the 24-hour window starts.

Wednesday – I will email you a notice that the registration has closed.

Until then, Merry (early) Christmas and here is to 41!

PS. If you want to make sure you get these emails just complete the form below.

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4 Things to Look for to Determine If You Can Trust Your Sex-Addicted Spouse

trust“How will I know when I will be able to trust him again?”

It is one of the spouse’s most commonly-asked questions during a couples’ first counseling session after discovering sexual addiction!

It’s a great question, because at the core of the couples’ issues is the broken bond of trust. Sex-addicted partners:

– Violate their commitment to be honest and faithful.

– Drive a wedge in the relationship that feels like the size of the Grand Canyon. 

– Create a sense of hopelessness that leaves the other feeling numb and confused.

Ask any sexually-betrayed partner and they will tell you that while the infidelity itself is like a punch in the gut, worse still are dishonesty and lying. While they hate the betrayal, they detest the lack of integrity displayed in attempting to cover the tracks. At some point, the focus on rebuilding trust is as critical as helping the sex-addicted partner manage the addiction itself.

How can a betrayed partner regain a sense of comfort and confidence that their sex-addicted spouse is safe? Let’s examine four key factors to look for in determining your spouse’s trustworthiness.

1. Commitment to his recovery

This is the one number key – not only for learning to manage a sexual addiction, but also to begin the process of rebuilding a tattered relationship. A sex addict must show dedication to the game plan created to assist him in breaking the bondage of secrecy and betrayal. Some partners dive in and go beyond what is asked of them in recovery. Some barely scratch the surface in doing the work required. When this is the case, it is extremely disheartening to the wounded spouse.

 If your spouse is following a treatment regimen and sharing his progress with you, then have hope for better days ahead.

2. He doesn’t shut you down when you vent.

One of the first things I will tell a husband who has abused sex is that his wife has a barrel of rocks… and she will be throwing them his way for the next twelve to twenty-four months. The ability for a woman to properly grieve the betrayal of the relationship is critical in order for there to be a chance for her to move forward in it.

Some men struggle when their grieving wives are throwing rocks. They become defensive and attempt to shut down the conversation. This is a serious mistake. When a woman is not given an opportunity to grieve, she will continue to sit on those emotions and learn how to express them in other ways, like passive aggression.

You can start to sense your spouse is getting better when they stand firm and allow you to vent about your pain and anger. This demonstrates an understanding of the extent of your anguish, and a commitment to helping you get to a better emotional place.   

346x396-recover-inline23. He starts to develop and engage in healthy communities.

Clinical studies have demonstrated time and time again that engaging in healthy community is a critical key to recovering from a sex addiction. It is also the biggest pushback we receive from our sex-addicted clients. Intense shame and embarrassment would make it easier to get them to agree to walk a tightrope over the Grand Canyon than attend a recovery group meeting.

As the wounded spouse, if you see your husband is attending a support group, working with a sponsor, and engaging in a men’s group, you should feel confident that he is learning how to step outside of his negative comfort zone. Establishing authentic relationships with others will help him maintain accountability, which is a major win for you and your relationship.

4. He demonstrates the ability to emotionally attach with you.

A man struggling with a sexual addiction is confused about intimacy. Somewhere along the line, he confused emotional intimacy for physical intimacy. He has an easier time connecting physically, and his emphasis is on sexual relations.

When you find your spouse able to identify and express emotion, or showing signs of openness and vulnerability, you know he is on the right track of recovery. A sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder, and the course of treatment is designed to broaden the addict’s view of healthy intimacy to include an emotional connection.

An addict who is committed to recovery, supports his wife’s grieving, engages in healthy community and begins to identify and express deeper emotions is an individual who is on the right path for recovery. That is something you can put your trust in.   

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Free Gift for You on Cyber Monday

cyber-mondayAt the end of 2015, we sent out a newsletter that mentioned we were going to create the best podcast possible on the topic of marriage. We didn’t want just another talking head host interviewing people around the up’s and down’s of marriage.

We wanted something that pulled people in that people could relate with, but at the same time wanted to listen to. To get a sneak peek of this new format of podcast, you can listen to the preview episode at www.strongermarriagespodcast.com

My friend Matt Carter knows how to do podcasts. He started badchristianmedia.com and went on to create www.jabberjawmedia.com.  

I called him at the beginning of last year and shared with him my simple idea. 

“I want to create the best marriage podcast.”

He said, “What is your budget?”

I said, “You tell me.” 

He called me back a few days later and said, “I have always wanted to do something more creative than just people talking and interviewing guests and if I had my wish I think I could do….”

He went on to talk for several minutes. I tracked with most of what he said and then he said the podcast could take 6-9 months if we wanted to do it right.

We gave Matt and his team what they asked for along with the 6-9 months to make the podcast amazing. The finished product is something that will blow you away because it blew us away!  

I don’t like waiting. I like things to happen quickly, but what Matt talked about doing was so exciting. He talked about finding a host who was a marriage and family licensed therapist, but also had a bit of an edge to them and possibly a personal story. He talked about music and the importance of this being quality content, but at the same time easy on the ears and driven by story. He asked for a list of experts who he thought could make appearances on the podcast and then he went to work with Melanie and Seth Studley and a team of other people.

Matt is a perfectionist, so when he sent me the first episode he had notes about what to change here and what music to add there. I was just blown away. I thought it was good to release and roll out then, but they kept working, and I kept waiting.

What we have for you is the Stronger Marriages Podcast Season #1 – Anatomy of Marriage. In this first season, we trace the almost failed marriage of the hosts, Melanie and Seth Studley, along with parallel stories of other marriages with similar struggles.

We have episode zero out right now which gives you an idea of what is to come with season #1 debuting on January 10th. Then we have 12 episodes that will come out every Tuesday after that. 

We ask you to check out www.strongermarriagespodcast.com or anatomyofmarriage.com to listen to the first episode and then subscribe in iTunes or RSS.

Subscribing to this podcast right now helps us a ton. When you subscribe you get episode ZERO instantly and then each week starting in January an episode will automatically download to your phone or computer.

That is our cyber Monday special.

No coupon code needed at checkout or credit card needed. Totally free just for you.

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3 Reasons Why Your Porn Addiction Is Your Best Friend

porn-addiction-best-friend-blogMost of us are afraid of people getting even a glimpse of who we are. Throw an addiction into the mix and we end up hiding every part of ourselves from the world.

I get it. When everyone else is seemingly happy and coping with life without any issues (btw – they’re not), we don’t want to be the one who stands out.

So we hide.

But maybe we need to drastically rethink how we approach those parts of ourselves. What if porn is nothing to be ashamed of but a friend who has been there all along?

Here are three reasons why I believe your porn addiction could be the best friend you never knew you had…

1. It shows that you don’t have the answers

One of the things that many of us who’ve been porn addicts have dealt with is constantly trying to find answers to the problem of how to stop looking at porn. We’re tired and depressed and we see any solution as to how to stop as our key goal.

The problem is that nothing seems to work. Yet, instead of thinking outside the box we hunker down and give it another try, thinking that if we just try harder then everything will be alright.

Because we’re so out of control, we try to fix it by finding more control. That’d be fine if it actually worked. But it doesn’t. So, instead of trying to be more certain, our addictions can actually guide us to the point where we realize we don’t have the solution.

This is why rock bottom is such a hopeful place to be. You’ve exhausted everything you thought would work. Rock bottom allows you to have a new type of faith – one where you step into the unknown and try something that may seem crazy, but just might bring you more freedom than you thought was possible.

2. It shows you where you are in pain

It’s really easy to believe the reason we view porn repeatedly is because we are a bad person, or that we have a sinful nature or that this is simply the “cross we have to carry.”

But this begs the question, what does it mean to be saved? If we’re saved, why do we keep doing what we do? Why, like Paul asks, do we do the things we don’t want to do and don’t do what we would like to do? Is salvation a one-off event, or is it more like a pilgrimage?

Are we supposed to always struggle with porn because we believe somehow this challenge is keeping us humble or centered on God? Well, there’s an easy question to ask to find out.

Is it working?

Perhaps, we tell ourselves that we’ll always struggle because it means we don’t have to truly be free? Think about it, if I accept that I will always struggle with porn then I don’t have to confront the pain and wounds that are leading me down this road.

We maintain a morsel of control amongst uncontrollable urges we face every day.

But what if we decided to confront those things head on and faced them in spite of our fears? Our addictions can shine a light on those areas that we are afraid of being exposed if we really want them to. Or, we can continue with the belief that this is just something we will struggle with.

For me at least, I know which one I would rather choose.

3. It gives you a chance to love/accept yourself

When we push those underlying issues further and further down, something happens to who we are at our very core.

In a world where others’ perceptions of us are so crucial to survival, we tend to only highlight and add filters to the parts of us that we don’t mind others seeing. It’s a continuous game that we’re all playing… but none of us are really winning.

What would it look like if we finally began to accept those dark parts of ourselves and brought them to the light? What if we loved everything about us? Even the porn addict in us?

Imagine that… I look at porn but I am learning to love that part of me. When we view that part of ourselves as a part of us that is in pain rather than just an inherently evil or bad person, it will change everything.

You can learn to have compassion for the addict in you. You can stop hating that part of you. We’re so willing to offer that compassion to others but reluctant when it comes to ourselves. Why do we do that? It just doesn’t make sense.

We have to learn to accept all parts of ourselves, because when we feel ashamed about a part of us, we feel ashamed about all of us.

So – if we truly want to be free – we may need to change something radical about how we believe we find freedom, and that may start with changing something radical about who we think we are.

Start to accept that what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked.

Learn to believe that you are not a bad person, just a person in pain.

And learn to love your whole self, especially your pain.

Then start to see who your real friends are.

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Friday Rant: The Best Way To Talk About Porn Addiction

talk-about-porn-addiction-blog[Note: On Fridays we post new rants from one of our writers, edited only for typos and spelling.This new series is not for those easily offended or for those who only like to play nice. So read this before you start posting your comments.]

Some Christians hate swearing. I am not one of them. I love a good swear word. Swear words are not the worst thing in the world. Swear words can really get to the core of how you are feeling. When no other word will do, a perfectly placed f-bomb can really get the point across.

I know some people are offended when someone swears but what actually offends me much more is “Christian-ese,” which is often a great example of what is NOT the best way to talk about porn addiction. (If you don’t know what Christian-ese is, here’s a quick beginner’s guide)

The thing about language that it is really important to remember is that words have meanings, but sometimes when those words are used over and over, they very quickly lose their meaning. Meanings can even change over time. Words can have incredible power for good and destruction, but sometimes we use them to protect ourselves.

Think about the word “Lust.” What does that really mean? When you say, “I struggle with lust,” what does that mean to you? How do you struggle with it? Do you not do it very well? I’ve never really struggled with it, personally. It just came naturally.

We want to talk about porn and we want to be brutally honest and finally get to the root of all of this, but we can wind up cloaking it in words that really don’t mean anything anymore. Case in point. Tell me how reading this next paragraph makes you feel:

“I like to look at pictures or clips of naked women having sex with men or with each other. It turns me on and I masturbate while I do it. I lie to the people closest to me, including my wife and kids, but I don’t really want to stop. Not really. I hate myself more every day and I sometimes wish that my life would just end. Or that I just didn’t exist anymore. Sometimes, I enjoy looking at images of bondage and clips of things that I wouldn’t in a million years dream of doing to another human being. But I can watch it and get the pleasure of pretending I have power over someone.”

Did it feel weird? Disturbing? Too honest? Not honest enough? Gross? Did it turn you on?

Now compare it to this paragraph:

“I struggle a bit with looking at stuff online that I shouldn’t. And I will act out when I do. Nobody knows. I don’t want to do this anymore because I feel so bad about myself when I do. I want to disappear. I look at some images that are worse than others, but it makes me feel good for a little while.”

Which of those did you prefer reading? How did it make you feel to read the first paragraph compared to the second paragraph?

No matter how it made you feel, sit with that feeling. What do you do with that? Ignore it or try and push it down?

The important thing is not to run and hide from that feeling. Both these accounts about someone who is clearly addicted to porn could be from the same person. The only difference is that one version of the person isn’t afraid to be brutally honest and hold anything back. You see, with porn, we cover up with words because we don’t want people to think we’re bad. At the same time and with the same breath, we are reaching out for help.

It’s like being stuck in a burning building and asking for help by saying, “It’s not really that hot, I’m fine. When you have a chance throw a ladder up here, I’d appreciate it, but don’t go to any bother.”

The reality is much different, but we don’t want people to look down on us. But screw that, I say! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of pretending and covering up the real pain I’m in by cloaking my relentless addiction to porn (or social media, or food, or…..) by calling it “my struggle with viewing images online.”

We say we’re free, yet we don’t feel free enough to plainly explain what we’re experiencing.

We say we’re loved and accepted as we are, but we don’t experience that, which is why we water it down to gauge a reaction first.

We say we don’t want to look at porn every day, however….we look at porn every day.

The most important question isn’t, Do you look at porn? The real question is what are you afraid of if you were to talk plainly and openly? Don’t be afraid. No-one is going to reject you. You’ll create a sense of relief if you just say it as it is. Look at that fear, seek to understand that, and you will eventually get to the root of your “struggle with lust online.”

So swear if you need to! Get angry. Cry.

But don’t lie to yourself.

Because that’s exactly what’s keeping you stuck.

The post Friday Rant: The Best Way To Talk About Porn Addiction appeared first on XXXchurch.com.

Help for the Woman in Your Life

help-women-finally-blogLast month I talked a lot about My Pilgrimage, a new approach to breaking free from pornography for men. The response was overwhelming.

However, while I was stoked to see so many men enter a new and exciting time in their life beginning a new journey to freedom from pornography … it was also a sobering reminder that we (as a ministry) have been wayyyy behind on our efforts to help women. Both those who struggle with porn and those who are married or involved with the men that do.

So, it is because of this that I’m so stoked to share with you two new programs we have coming specifically for women. In fact, I believe that the program we have for spouses may be the best thing we ever did.

1st, My Pilgrimage – Women’s Edition will be launching in 2017. This program will be exclusively for women who struggle with pornography. Stay tuned.

2nd, coming in early 2017 we are offering a new program just for women who are in relationships (or have been in relationships) with men who struggle with porn or have been unfaithful in some other manner.

We are calling the program Recover.

Why Recover? Because this is not something women just get over…

Women who are impacted by these acts of sexual betrayal need recovery too.

Healing from these types of things is not something that just happens overnight.

It’s a process.
It’s a journey.

Watch this video for a small taste of what Recover is all about.

If you enjoyed that and are excited like me, go HERE, and you can watch the first three videos from the Recover Workshop for FREE.

NOW, here is something even more exciting.

Some of you can begin the entire workshop NOW.

We are inviting 15 women to come to San Diego June 3-6, 2017 as part of the first ever Recover Retreat.

The Recover Workshop was filmed on location in beautiful San Diego, California last summer with 7 amazing women who have all been in marriages affected by the sexual addiction of their spouse. During the making of this program, the women were in awe of the atmosphere and their time together. At the end of filming, they said …

“THIS is exactly the type of retreat, so many women need. A secluded place where they can be pampered, renewed, make new friendships and begin to recover!”

What an incredible opportunity we now have for women to take a break from their current challenges and spend time with other women who have worked through similar situations.

This is your special invitation to start the healing process today.

Be free from the pains, the hurts, the insecurities … experience Recover in person.

15 WOMEN. 4 DAYS. 3 NIGHTS.

1 UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE.

The Recover Retreat will be a landmark weekend in your life. It’s very possible that this could be weeks, months or even years worth of healing and recovery distilled and concentrated into just four days of intense beauty and introspection.

The retreat will take place at a beautiful 10 bedroom estate located in San Diego, California. Offering panoramic views of the gorgeous Pacific Ocean and a private heated oceanfront pool and jacuzzi. Wake up to the smell of the ocean while you drink your morning coffee or tea. The showstopper is the outside living area.

No matter where you turn in the backyard, you see the magnificent blue ocean. A big swimming pool and lounge seating all around is the perfect way to enjoy the San Diego sun.

The experience includes:

  • Your pampered stay at a 5-star resort property
  • 5-star chef prepared meals
  • Exclusive and private spa treatment
  • Six life-changing sessions

The first 15 women that sign up for the retreat will get immediate access to the Recover video series (that means right now!) and the first to get the book and guidebook before the end of the year.

In addition to early access to the video series, we will begin an exclusive online small group for the women who will be attending the Recover Retreat.

Check out www.recover.org/retreat for more information and if you are impatient like me … sign up and be 1 of the first 15 to experience Recover.

Space is limited, don’t delay.


logoguide1There is hope and healing for women who have been hurt by sexual betrayal. Recover.org is a brand new program launching in early 2017 just for women who need to find restoration and peace after the damage done to them by a spouse’s infidelity.

Find out more today!

The post Help for the Woman in Your Life appeared first on XXXchurch.com.

Friday Rant: Stop Saying “#Foodporn” and “#Wordporn”

food-pornAh, Instagram. The home of our beloved #foodporn and #wordporn.

These tags are casual and edgy ways to appreciate glorious, towering burgers and macaron-embellished cakes, or a short poem that captures our hearts. They’re also really destructive uses of language. And we need to stop.

Look, I’m no stranger to ‘rule 34(If it exists, there is porn for it), and I know people have fetishes. But obviously, this classic tag has nothing to do with actual arousal. My problem is not with people lusting after desserts or floggin’ the dolphin while reading prose but with the implications of the flippant use of the term ‘porn’.

I have two definitions for you.

1) Porn is graphic depiction of a sex act to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic and emotional responses.

2) Art is the application of human creativity, often to stimulate powerful emotional responses.

Let us not get these two mixed up. Some say that pornography and the videography involved is an art form—but the most important part of porn is the whole getting turned on by watching other people have sex thing, right? Otherwise it’s just a really bad soap opera. So, porn is not art. And art is not porn.

This is important:

You are allowed to feel emotion without sexualizing it.

You are allowed to appreciate food, beauty or depth, without associating it with orgasm and sexual power.

In fact, we should feel emotion like this. We should appreciate freely like this. Let us not be reduced to sexual consumers! Let me clarify, there is nothing wrong with sex itself. I say, enjoy your God-given, Gatorade-fueled sex fests with your spouse, but keep it sacred. Be sexual in the right context. That context is not on your Instagram feed, in a hipster cafe or anywhere else you might be tempted to pull out some edgy hashtags.

We are participating in a culture that mistakes any excitement for the sexual kind, and in which any enjoyment is instantly suggestive. To want something, is to ‘want’ something—erotically. These hashtags are killing our ability to appreciate and let deep emotion sit within us. That is a terribly sad thing!

I know when people tag, they don’t actually mean they are turned on by that Katherine Sabbath cake or romantic poem; it’s a bit of fun, there’s no sexual drive. But I think it is so important to consider language and the implications using it this way brings, especially for young people.

Before you post, tag, or share, think about what you’re sexualizing. Think about what you’re trivializing. Think about what you’re normalizing.

Consider the porn addict, star, or spouse suffering betrayal trauma, to whom the word ‘porn’ is triggering. Think about the young person who searches #foodporn or simply the term ‘porn’, after seeing a harmless phrase on a friend’s social media. Think about the author or creator whose beautiful work has been reduced to a sexual object.

This is nit-picking on language, I know. There are bigger fish to fry. But language is powerful. It shapes culture, attitudes and the future.

Stop using #foodporn and #wordporn.

It’s not porn, it’s just beautiful.

The post Friday Rant: Stop Saying “#Foodporn” and “#Wordporn” appeared first on XXXchurch.com.

What If You’re the One Who Cheated?

one-who-cheatedIf you have ever been in a marriage where there has been infidelity present you probably have asked yourself, “Should I stick around or not?

It’s a fair question.
It’s also a difficult one.

Craig Gross wrote about this question in his post “Should I stay or should I go?” Check it out.

 

That, unfortunately, is my story.

I hid my porn addiction from my wife for the majority of our marriage. When I finally did confess it to her, it was like a bomb went off in her heart. She felt hurt, betrayed, blindsided, and angry. 

We began going to counseling and attempting to find ways to repair the damage I had caused. I played the part of the victim, saying how I’d come clean, was all better, and my wife just needed to forgive me so we could move on and live happily ever after. She would respond that she couldn’t trust me, didn’t see any changes in me, and felt trapped because she didn’t know whether she should stay with me or not. 

The truth is: she was right about not trusting me. I hadn’t built up the courage to face the full extent of my addiction yet and was still hiding the worst details from her. I had actually cheated on her (not just with porn, but with another woman), but was too much of a coward to admit it, so I continued to lie. I told her over and over I had confessed everything… even though I hadn’t. 

I still believed I could lie or bluff my way out of any situation and, with enough time, it would all be swept under the rug. I figured if I held out long enough, things would finally blow over and get better. 

346x396-recover-inline2That notion was completely shattered when my wife asked me to move out.

All this time, I had been wrestling with God about making a full confession to my wife. I continued to lie even though I knew I needed to tell her everything. I argued with God—If I tell her everything, she will leave me. I would never have said it out loud, but I believed I knew how to manage this situation better than He did.

The breaking point for me was when God showed me how my wife would never be free from the spiritual bondage in her life unless I confessed my adultery to her. Even if it meant she would leave me, I knew I had to tell her everything for her own good. For the first time in our marriage, I started to put her well-being above my own desires.

I wrote her a letter outlining everything I had held back. I told her how much I loved her, how sorry I was for all the pain I had caused her, and how I knew this would likely be the end of our marriage. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. 

But in that moment, God became real to me for the first time in my life (Tweet This!). All the signs of change my wife had been looking for in me—repentance, humility, empathy, compassion—suddenly became undeniably evident in my life. Not because I was creating them, but because I finally released control of my life to God and allowed Him to create them in me. 

I was convinced that handing that letter to my wife would be the end of all happiness for me. Instead, it became the act of submission that opened the floodgates of God’s freedom and mercy in my life. 

I had reached the end of my rope, only to find that God was waiting there to catch me (Tweet This!).

I often wonder how things would have been different if I had been honest with my wife from the start. I do know one thing though: If I’d stopped trying to control everything and submitted myself to God earlier on, she would have seen the changes He was making in me. By waiting as long as I did, I was already out of her life when those changes took place. There’s still no way she would have trusted me at that point, but perhaps she would have been able to trust God working in me.

In the same way, if you’re desperately trying to fix the damage you’ve done to your marriage, I’d encourage you to consider whether it’s even possible for you to fix it. Perhaps the best thing right now is for you to reach out to God and trust Him to fix the things you can’t. 

After all, some of the stuff we mess up in our lives can’t simply be fixed—they can, however, be redeemed (Tweet This!).

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” – Matthew 5:3 MSG


logoguide1There is hope and healing for women who have been hurt by sexual betrayal. Recover.org is a brand new program launching this fall just for women who need to find restoration and peace after the damage done to them by a spouse’s infidelity.

Find out more today!

 

 

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