I Don’t Hate Sex


It was a startling revelation to realize that I don’t hate sex.

In fact, making love with my husband, who adores me and treats me with tender kindness, continues to be a wonderful, fulfilling, intimate event that thrills me. Who would have thought? Not I. That is a testimony to my husband, but even more to the healing power of God in my life. I once believed the lies engrained in my heart that told me I was a shameful object only worthy if I could perform well sexually. I accepted the claims that I was a prude, frigid hater of sex.

It isn’t the act of lovemaking as the result of an intimate relationship we hate, it’s the feelings of shame, hurt, rejection, loneliness and often times, physical pain that we hate. In the setting of living with an addict, sex can become a terrible chore we fear. Especially if any kindness shown us comes with a price tag of sex.

Is it surprising that we would avoid sex like that?

In a healthy marriage, intimacy is the basis for sex. Knowing the depth of our spouse and longing to connect with them creates an environment conducive to a physical union being enjoyable and fulfilling. However, for a sex addict to keep their fantasy in place and alleviate their shame, they avoid intimacy. Because of deception and secrecy, we are left only guessing who they really are. Often, the intimate information we share with them is used against us to gain or keep control over us. Obviously, we become reluctant to offer any more of ourselves.

Without intimacy, women especially, have a difficult time giving themselves sexually.

When there is only pain and unresolved conflict, our desire for physical intimacy is destroyed. This leads to emotional detachment in order to avoid feelings of being used. We may truly desire to share intimate relations with our spouse, but as they push us away emotionally while demanding of us sexually, the conflict in our heart leads us to despair.

When a wife can’t meet the needs of her fantasy driven spouse, guilt drives her.

If we say no to sex because we feel like an object, we feel guilty for not meeting his needs. (Especially as Christian wives!) If we go along with his requests, we feel the guilt of giving ourselves without attachment.  We may feel guilty for not loving him well, or enabling his addiction; but which is which? Guilt confuses the lines of boundaries, making us unable to function and driving us into depression.

All of this can lead us to seek fulfillment from other areas.

When our marriage lacks trust, intimacy and enjoyment,  it’s easy to pursue meaning and satisfaction through other means. Our children may become our emotional stability, or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, that fix is temporary and can end up setting patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

Life with an addict becomes survival, not living.

We struggle to get through a day, coping with a world that spins out of control. Those around us may not notice that we are barely holding on. If we believe in God, we probably wonder where he is, or perhaps we feel we haven’t figured out the right formula to make him able to change things for us. Living with an addict is not living; it is dying slowly and painfully. Most of the time we have done such a good job of pretending life is normal that no one around us suspects we are in danger of bleeding to death.

…say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…

Isaiah 35:4

If you or someone you know is dealing with a similar situation, God is there and can help. Please comment below or email me privately at laurabennet14@gmail.com

 

 

 

Living With an Addict – Part 4


The unpredictability of life with an addict causes stress and inner turmoil.

 

We’ve been looking at the patterns of living with someone who suffers from an addiction, specifically in the area of sexual addiction. Often we can be lulled into a lifestyle of survival, minimizing, denial and isolation that becomes our new normal. We don’t actually know what “normal” looks like especially if we’ve grown up in these patterns of life and then married into them. The patterns become engrained in our soul and offer a familiar, even if destructive, way to relate.

Recognizing and examining these patterns is often the first step in becoming free.

  • Lack of unconditional love. True love is not about keeping a spouse happy, or trying to make them love us. Covering for our spouse’s indiscretions, making excuses for them, taking responsibility for their actions, and carrying the weight of the relationship and family is enabling their behavior, not loving them. A sexually addicted spouse may insist that if we don’t perform according to their particular desires, we are unloving, but sexual love is intended to be an outpouring of the love and intimacy we share; a joining together physically of what God joined in heart and spirit. Love never demands, it gives.
  • Rejection. When we don’t measure up to our spouse’s fantasy life or experiences with prostitutes, we are rejected. Even if we have been initially praised for creating a fulfilling experience for our spouse, it will never match fantasy in extreme or frequency and will often be disregarded. We may become the brunt of crude insults in private and even in public due to our lack of sexual prowess. We may be told that if we don’t do or like what they want, we should leave; or they will leave us.
  • Lack of respect. We lose respect for a spouse who is out of control and unkind. We lose respect for ourselves when we are simply an object for someone’s pleasure. That kind of prostitution leaves us feeling used, hated and dirty. If this person who we trusted with our entire being doesn’t respect us with consideration, we see no reason to care for ourselves. Often, our past abuse allows for this perpetuation of disrespect.
  • Lack of trust. Relying on our spouse feels like a dangerous proposition when they choose what pleases them at the moment rather than considering what is best for everyone in the family. Their lack of consideration, and hurtful or cruel behavior keeps us from entrusting them with our hearts and lives. Infidelity is an act of betrayal, and whether a spouse is emotionally involved in an affair, or physically involved with magazine pictures, computer images or women for hire, the betrayal leads to distrust. That environment breeds suspicion and causes difficulty in trusting not only the spouse involved, but anyone.
  • Depression. Slipping in and out of depression can be a daily situation often based on the mood of our spouse. Any affirming overture in towards us results in our hope that things are improving; that a better future waits just around the corner. One minute life seems full of possibility, but if something happens to rock our spouse’s fantasy world, they take it out on us. In devastation, we are without hope and despairing that life will always be hellish. We may feel a diminished ability to think or accomplish simple tasks one day, but then feel as if we can conquer the world the next. Bouts of depression becomes longer lasting with fewer good days between. Suppressed fear and anger cause us to rage at our children or burst into tears. We don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, or can’t sleep at night. Our emotions are out of control from pressing down all we feel in order to hold life together. Our children probably struggle in this way as well.

Next week we’ll talk about intimacy and sex with someone addicted to sex. The dynamics are unique and can be devastating.

Are there other patterns you have recognized or become aware of? How have you become free?
 
For further help or prayer, please leave a comment or email Laura privately at laurabennet14@gmail.com

Living with an Addict


Addiction comes in many forms.

Typically, when we say “addiction” we think of alcohol, drugs or maybe gambling. But we can have addictions to shopping, eating, not eating, reading, television, gaming, Facebook, checking emails, surfing the internet, magazines, exercise, pornography, sports, scrap-booking or sex. Anything that grabs our attention, pulls us into a place of needing it, and dictates our thoughts or actions has created an addiction. The ‘something’ we feel we must have; we can’t go without, shapes our lives and the lives of those we live with.

For decades I was shaped by the patterns of living with someone addicted to sex.

Over the following weeks, I will share what I learned through my experiences. I hope to help and encourage anyone feeling despair over your circumstances–either because you live with an addict or battle with addiction in some area. Most of us do to some extent at some point of our life. Recognizing patterns and symptoms can alert us to get the help we need. Honestly evaluating our particular situation is the first step in breaking free from the bondage of addiction.

While many patterns relate universally to any addiction (and some by themselves simply show a lack of growth in character or maturity), I’m relating the following patterns primarily with sexual addictions. Someone who is addicted to sex probably:

  1. Needs to be in control. The women in his fantasies do exactly what he wants and enjoy his power; therefore, he expects everyone in his life to submit to his desires. Sex makes him feel powerful and in control. He may use anger or violence to control his family, and may not acknowledge their needs or feelings since he has no control over those areas.
  2. Lacks respect for women. The degradation of women due pornography and prostitution causes the focus of a woman’s value to be on her ability to perform sexually or contribute materially. This can be particularly devastating for women choosing to stay home to raise children. That job consumes her time and energy without financial profit, and can leave her feeling worthless, especially if she can’t fulfill her husband’s sexual fantasies.
  3. Is self-absorbed. In a healthy relationship, each person desires to meet the needs of their spouse whenever possible, but an addict focuses entirely on meeting the desires of self regardless of how valid or pressing others’ situations may be. Family needs may be ignored. Someone addicted to sex can fulfill their needs almost anytime, anywhere because much of the stimulation and satisfaction comes from mental images. This constant, instant gratification makes it nearly impossible to put another person’s needs first.
  4. Uses manipulation. In order to get his way or keep his behavior hidden, the addict will often use whatever means necessary no matter what it costs. He may be kind and understanding one minute, making promises or begging forgiveness, then angry and violent the next. He may use guilt, self-pity or even whining to manipulate his family. In her book, The Dance of Anger, Dr. Harriet Lerner states, “If women are constantly made to feel guilty, they remain ‘in their place’ and are ineffective.”

To be continued…

It may be a grueling process to redefine who you are apart from the impact of these patterns, or to allow yourself to be extricated from a life of addiction, but there is hope.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Galatians 5:1

 
Have you experienced any of these patterns either as an addict or living with one?
 

If you need help or would like prayer, please feel free to comment below or send me a private message at laurabennet14@gmail.com

Fantasy vs. Reality


Oh, what a dangerous place is the world of fantasy! 

Question: Does online dating make us susceptible to fantasy? We interact with people we don’t know, don’t see and have no way of watching in everyday life. We stake a relationship and perhaps our life on the profile and email communications of a complete stranger! Some people call that crazy. I’ve been called desperate. Remaining grounded in reality is pretty imperative.

Once during my online dating process, a man and I sent instant messages back and forth for a couple of hours in flirtatious banter. We had so much fun that we carried further on the phone for a while. I felt deep down that I had become too caught up in the exchange, but I ignored those little niggling warning signs. However, when he repeatedly called my house late at night, only to hang up mysteriously, I realized that my perception (fantasy) of the situation didn’t match the reality of it. Oops! How easily we can create something in our minds (and hearts) that doesn’t actually exist as we imagine it.

In one situation, I communicated with someone for weeks and began to imagine him as the person God had in mind for me. I liked him and enjoyed chatting with him. However, one night the subject of his wife somehow slipped into the conversation (thank you Lord!). WIFE?? Well, nearly an ex-wife, separated, but not yet divorced…you know the story. Not a story I wanted to continue.

So how do we guard our hearts and minds to stay in the reality of the moment and not let them gallivant away into fantasies of the future?

First, watch where we take little steps over the lines or boundaries that exist for our good. Each person has to determine what is best for them based on God’s leading. One little toe over a line may seem like no big deal, but after a few toes have crossed, we’ve taken a whole step and soon we’re running into trouble.

Deciding ahead of time what boundaries to create can be helpful. I had no idea about this initially, and I confess to “winging it” as I went along. At least my best friend improvised with me. Certain topics, words and attitudes simply didn’t fit within our boundary lines. When in doubt, we checked with each other and leaders at church. Once, after a few emails with one guy left me feeling uncomfortable, I showed our correspondence to a trusted couple at church and inquired after a male perspective. He confirmed that the intentions of that suitor were not honorable. I’m so glad I asked!

It’s also best to develop friendship while keeping in constant contact with the Lord about what he has in mind. Even with the first email from my husband, I knew right away that he was from God, but I kept pulling back on the reins of my heart and checking in with the Lord and my best friends to be sure. Clarity and truth can be sobering so it helps to keep relationships “public” with at least a couple of friends we trust who won’t just feed a fantasy. I can be ruined in a split second by sin – one poor choice can destroy everything that is truly important to me.

Accountability ushers in reality and keeps fantasy at bay.

If you can’t tell at least a couple of people about a relationship, or feel the need or desire to keep things “private” or “secret,” you may be headed for dangerous waters.

One of the keys for me? Looking for someone who loves Jesus as much as I do and holds the same perspective on God, dating, marriage and sex. Not much fantasy in that.