On this page, we display questions from couples with Ron's short answers to them.

Names have been changed to protect the couples' privacy.

Dear Ron

  • My Fiance's Ex Open or Close

     

    Dear Ron, 

    My fiancé and I have been together for almost 4 years. The only thing that has bothered me in our relationship was his past relationship. Her name was H. and they were dating together for a year and a half Freshman year of High School. We are now in college and obviously that was a long time ago, but I just can't seem to get over thinking about her every. single. day. I think that the reason why I am so obsessed with her is because they each took each others virginity and that is something that is so special to me and something that I wanted to take. He has no cares for her whatsoever and whenever I mention her he always tells me not to worry about her and that their relationship was horrible (she cheated on him sexually too). I find myself stalking her Facebook, social media everyday and it lowers my self confidence knowing that I will never be like her or be the one who took something so special from him. They say that you will always have a special attraction the first person you first have sex with and it bothers me that he will always have that with her. What do I do? It has been years with me being like this and I don't know how to move on. I love him with all of my heart and he doesn't know that I am THIS obsessed with her... I’ve prayed and I've blocked her from social media, but I always find my way back to thinking of her. What do I do?
    Meg



    Meg,

    First, I want to thank you for your question and I'd like to acknowledge the pain these thoughts are giving you.  You seem like a very sensitive woman and I'll wager your fiancée is proud of you for that reason.  Also, thank you for providing the additional information I requested.

    Let me speak first to your fiancée (you'll have to relay the information, of course), I'll call him Mr. Meg: 

    Mr. Meg, I appreciate that you try to be helpful to Meg when she is insecure about your former girlfriend.  I'll guess that sometimes you cannot understand why she asks about Haily; shouldn't she be over it by now?  But she is not; she has a pain deep inside of her.  Meg loves you so deeply that she wants to partner with you for the rest of your lives.  Somewhere in her past, Meg was trained to believe that she should marry a virgin and that she would be your first lover.  That training informed Meg that first lovers are indelibly etched in our psyche and while you know that is not true, she does not have that same certainty.  So you see, Meg's pain is not about your ex-girlfriend, it is caused by Meg's fear that you might somehow not be emotionally (or physically) available to her in the future.

    For that reason, Meg needs more than simple reassurance that you have no further interest in your former girlfriend, Meg needs for you to stand under her when she experiences this pain.  Do this: (1) Ask her to talk about her feelings, then (2) validate those feelings and then (3) ask her again and repeat until Meg reassures herself.  Remember to use your two ears for listening and to use your words very judiciously and mostly for the purpose of validating her feelings.  Do that instead of immediately reassuring her (which, I agree, intuitively seems to be the right thing to do); your reassuring words, unfortunately cannot be heard when Meg is in fear and feeling that pain.  Furthermore, this pain is deep, so Meg is likely to share her fear several times; if you are patient to just listen... and then validate, eventually this pain will go away.  BTW:  If you cannot be patient in this way, Meg may not overcome this pain.

    Though you have never betrayed Meg, this is still a betrayal in her heart; that's what she feels.  Despite your own innocence in this matter, Meg has experienced relational trauma.  And because this trauma has not yet been resolved, her mind keeps stumbling over the pain every time she thinks about how much she loves you.  Mr. Meg, I emphasize, you did not cause the trauma but you are the central, and only, person (aside from Meg herself) involved in the trauma.  If you learn to do this well, Meg's trauma will heal and she will be grateful to you.

    And for you Meg:

    Your relational trauma will heal as Mr. Meg helps you to heal; you will begin to feel relief immediately.  In addition, however, you have turned these anxious thoughts into habits and you are responsible to rid yourself of them.  Trolling the ex-girlfriend on social media is a habit which can be broken.  Any such sort of behavior is a habit which can be broken.  Here are some simple rules but if you can't make these work, you'll have to seek some 1-1 help with a counselor to break these habits.  Consider:

    1) A fast from all social media for a time (it is Lent, after all) as a way to lessen the importance you give to vicarious information about people.  I am not trying to be critical about social media in general, however, allowing yourself to casually view information vicariously can lead you to decide to make that extra leap into the debilitating behavior of trolling the ex.

    2) Give yourself a consequence to do should you cross the line in order to view the ex-g/f.  Don't think of a consequence as punishment, think of it as a way to re-train your brain.  Thus, don't give yourself a 'harsh' consequence but instead make it a 'significant' consequence.  For example, consider giving $25 to an organization you politically or philosophically disagree with whenever you cross the line.

    3) When you are tempted, interrupt the temptation with a different behavior; for example, turn off your phone and take a walk when the thought crosses your mind.  In other words, put yourself in a completely different frame of mind when you are tempted.  Do this even if it is 3 AM.

    4) Finally, be patient with yourself.  You have convinced yourself that the ex-girlfriend is important and you have given this person importance in your brain.  Think of the lesson of the pink elephant: whenever I tell myself to not think about the pink elephant, I of course, think of the pink elephant.  Your job over the next several months is to allow the significance of that pink elephant to extinguish from your brain.

    I know that's a lot of information so here are the important principles to consider:

    1) You have experienced relational trauma (though your fiancée is not responsible).

    2) That trauma must be healed or complete health will not be attained.

    3) Your fiancée can be your most effective healer (see above note to Mr. Meg).

    4) You are responsible for breaking your own harmful habits.

    5) Habits only change when we take action, we must do more than just think about them.

    Meg, I hope this is helpful to you, please let me know if I can be of further assistance.  

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician

     

  • Marriage Doubts Open or Close

    Hi Ron, 

    My name is Sarah and I am getting married in a few months.
    Recently I have been having many doubts about getting married, and I can't tell if I am just nervous and scared, or really should not marry this person.
    We met in college and dated for 4 years before getting engaged over a year ago.
    One of the major doubts I'm having is I feel like we are not on the same page sexually.
    In the past, I found messages of him flirting with other girls. I broke up with him, but then we had a long conversation about it and got back together. He says he has never cheated on me, but he has admitted to watching porn a lot and masturbating every day.
    We have been long distance the last few years, and when I was with him for this past thanksgiving, I woke up and he was masturbating while I was asleep next to him. I called him out on it and said how I thought it was disgusting. I also said I think he has a problem if he's that horny that he needs to do that while I'm laying right next to him. He wasn't defending his actions, but said all guys masturbate. I've caught him doing it before, but never said anything.
    Now, I'm wondering if this is something I will have to deal with my whole life once I marry him, which is why I'm having second thoughts. I'm thinking, will I always have to worry about falling asleep before him? Or if we have kids and they need to sleep in the bed with us when they are young, will he do that with them in the bed? I can't tell if I'm overreacting, or if there is someone out there better for me that wouldn't do that to me. Any advice?

     

    Sarah,

    This is my specialty; I hope my advice will do your question justice. In addition, please go to my website (below) to read more about this response and about my story.

    That said, you are not overreacting; please do not go through with the marriage until your fiancé has significant recovery from his behaviors. While it is true that many men masturbate, those who do won't make good husbands. I could give you all sorts of reasons why it is not a good idea but I'll focus on three areas: science, what your heart tells you and, of course, what the Bible tells us.

    The science: Despite what the culture tells us, we are designed to be monogamous creatures (hormonally and ethologically). Our male and female bodies are designed to bring us pleasure in the sexual union with our partner. That plan and the specific hormones involved in sexuality cause us to care deeply about and to bond with our spouse. Masturbation, on the other hand, causes us to care deeply about what? And with what/whom are we bonding?

    I have worked with hundreds of men (and some women) who have become trapped in their pornography and masturbation addictions. Because they are at odds with their own bodies (that is, they misuse their bonding and affection hormones), they cannot fully love their partner. I am not saying that your fiancé doesn't like or care about you, I am saying that, in his current state, he cannot fully love you.

    Both pornography and masturbation can be significant addictions. Some secular counselors might disagree, though I suspect that in 2017, most would agree with my previous sentence. Whatever the viewpoint, I can tell you that in my center, we routinely treat these men and most will, with work, recover. Recovery requires a lifelong commitment to chastity (see below); it is not wise for a man (or woman) to view pornography or masturbate in or out of relationship.

    Your heart:  You called it 'disgusting'; that is what your heart correctly believes.  You say he has never 'cheated' but surely it feels like infidelity in your heart. I suspect that it feels like infidelity just like the flirting felt like infidelity. Because you are designed for a monogamous connection, your mind believes that any sort of sexual activity or infatuation outside of the relationship is an intrusion.

    I want to ask you this question, if you get married and then discover 10 years from now that he has been viewing pornography, or flirting or even masturbating, will you feel as if you have been 'cheated'? The cultural lexicon contains certain words and phrases because they properly capture a meaning; I think this is an apt example.  Yes, you will feel as if your husband has 'cheated' you and that certainly will have been the case. Follow your heart Sarah.

    Biblically:  There is some debate as to whether masturbation, per se, is prohibited in the Bible. Since it is not specifically mentioned it must be inferred (as prohibited).  What we do know, most assuredly, is that sexual fidelity is esteemed and required.

    On this matter, I often defer to the wisdom of those who have worked hard to understand the teachings. Here is a definition of chastity, which comes from "The Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine" published by Our Sunday Visitor:

    "Chastity is the virtue that enables one to use one’s sexual powers properly.  The chaste person is in control of his or her sexual desires rather than being controlled by them. Chastity frees one from being dominated by one’s sexual passions.  Necessary for both the married and unmarried, chastity is rooted in deep respect for the other person, who should never be used as a means to satisfy one’s sexual desires. The power of sexuality allows one to make a gift of oneself to another.  Again, chastity is the virtue that allows one to make a proper use of that power."

    Notice that the word 'power' or 'powers' is found in that paragraph 3 times.  The authors recognize that our sexuality is a power truly intended for awesome purposes and it is not intended to casually be used for our personal pleasure. I assure you that I am not prudish, the pleasure of sexuality in marriage is beyond my words.  Certainly, lovers in marriage are commanded to please each other; please check the Song of Solomon for more on that. What I have discovered, though, is that I cannot attain that pleasure while I am pleasuring myself by making love to myself.

    Sarah, I certainly do not know your fiancé, nor do I wish to demean him; I am sure he is a wonderful young man (though misguided). What I do know is that your marriage will suffer unless you can both learn to be chaste in and out of marriage.

    Please feel free to contact me for further advice or for a consultation with your fiancé.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling
    http://www.recoveringhearts.com/

  • Prioritize Intimacy Open or Close
    Hi Mr. Kaufmann, 
    I have a relationship question for you. How do you recommend that couples prioritize intimacy in their marriage relationship? Lots of things seem to get in the way of intimacy in marriages from stress to exhaustion to children… what tips do you have for overcoming these challenges? Thanks! 
    Nicole
     
     
    Nicole,
     
    This is a very smart question for you to ponder. 
    In life, there are very many distractions; kids, cars, careers, catastrophic conversations; so many things conspire to make our lives crazy.
     
    You mention children; that is a great place to start. Parents must actively care for their children; that means time, money, emotions and every other resource you have. There is, however, one resource most important to every child; that is having an intact and loving relationship to emulate, which provides security and models love.
     
     When I think of what really matters to kids, I’m often reminded of a scene from The Incredibles. The whole family is on Syndrome’s island; Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are inside the compound hoping to foil Syndrome’s evil plot. Though it is dangerous and she has her children to protect, Mrs. Incredible (AKA Elastigirl) especially wants to be in the compound with her husband to be certain that super-vixen Mirage doesn't have designs on her husband. Daughter Violet and son Dash are impatiently waiting outside. The kids are getting nervous, they can’t wait and they want to help; after all, their parents could be in danger.  Violet says to Dash, “Mom and Dad's lives could be in jeopardy, or worse - [whispering] their marriage.”
     
    If you are so exhausted from child-rearing or job stress that you don't take time out to connect with your partner, you will naturally become more disconnected as time passes. You and your partner will learn to be more self-sufficient which will lead to more disconnection, which will lead to..., well you get the point. This won't happen quickly; first it is days, then weeks, then months and finally years of moribund disconnection. Like the frog in boiling water, by the time you notice, the water is too hot and you may no longer be able to escape.
     
    Here’s the problem, when we don’t take care of our relationships, eventually they will fail in some critical way. That’s why successful relationships demand a principled approach.  What does that mean?  I’ll give you some thoughts in a moment, but first let’s look at what means to be principled in some other key areas of life:
     
    Children:  You’ll raise your children in ways that you've been taught will increase their chances of success in life.
    Financial:  Having sufficient financial resources for life and retirement requires you'll create and follow plans for both spending and saving. 
    Physical Health:  Living a healthy lifestyle requires proper exercise, healthy eating habits, avoiding bad habits like smoking or drinking in excess. 
    That principled approach repeats in every important part of our lives. This doesn't mean that we must frenetically plan every piece of life, but if it’s important, we’ll follow principles which give us a reasonably good chance at success. Of course, that crucially important part of life, your life’s relationship, must also follow principles for success.  
    In the linked file, I’m going to outline some ‘basic’ relationship tips.  Try following these tips daily for a couple of months and write me back to let me know if you are experiencing more connection. What I’m hoping you will experience is that a stronger relationship connection, even though it takes a few more minutes out of every day, will actually give you extra strength and help to relieve some of your stress.
    I'll post more tips later, maybe your follow-up email will inspire me to do that.
    God Bless you for caring!
     
    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist 
    Recovering Hearts Counseling
     
     
  • "Butterflies" Open or Close

     

    Hi Ron,
     
    My husband and I have been married for 9 years, together closer to 11. We have dealt with many things over that time, job loss, insecurities, etc. Never have we wavered as far as our love for each other, until now. With each of my pregnancies we have experienced a bit of distance, a feeling of disconnect, especially toward the end. Now that we are expecting our (surprise) fourth child in November, it is in full swing and my husband has told me that he's feeling so disconnected with me that he's actually considered separating. He feels as though he's lost the feeling of "yearning and butterflies" that come along with feeling in love. 


    I suppose my question would be is it normal to feel this way at times, especially after close to 10 years of marriage? I always felt like that feeling was something that comes and goes, where the friendship and deeper rooted love is what lasts. I don't know how to help him to see that what he's feeling is normal and we can move past it. As you've been through a separation, maybe you can give some insight. Thank you for your time, 

    Alayna

     

    Alayna,

    ‘Butterflies’ are normally associated with the infatuation period of a relationship; that feeling is a purposeful part of the dating and courting phase of our relationship.  As you indicate, long term relationship success is based on deeper love, friendship AND, most of all, on trust and commitment.  Of course, I’m not saying that after 10 (or 50) years we won’t ever feel a deep pleasure for our partner; it certainly should be normal to wake each day with the excitement that we live with that special person God has provided for us.

    Your story is painful but not as uncommon as we’d like.  Pregnancy is usually one of the most bonding (and yes, scary) times in marriage; when it instead creates distancing there is some undisclosed issue to be uncovered and resolved.  Knowing as little as I know about your relationship, it would be inappropriate to assume that I know what is going wrong but I will pose a couple of questions: 

    - With each child, does your husband claim to get less and less of your attention?  Do you pull back and create some of that distance?
    - Does each child seem to represent a new financial burden causing anxiety to build in your husband?
    - Is your husband overwhelmed with mounting responsibilities; does he feel inadequate as a parent?  
    - Does he feel inadequate with his ability to deal with your emotions?

    These are just a few of the questions which should asked by a competent counselor.  Most likely, this is a very solvable problem but don’t delay in seeking help, your marriage and your children (not to mention both you and your husband) are worth a great solution.  

    Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist

  • Asking Adult Children to be On their Own Open or Close

     

    My fiancé has asked his adult children (in their early 20's) who are currently unemployed, to be on their own by our wedding date. His son is still in college and looking for a job. My fiancé has disclosed that his son has a history of being physically violent. His daughter is hoping to join the marines. At this point, it doesn't look like they have any intentions of moving out. My question is: What do we do if they have not moved out by our wedding date? Should we be firm about this? We have also offered to partially support them by paying their rent for a few months until they are stable.

    Elizabeth

     

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your question as it is so pertinent to our lives in this new millennium.  I'd like to separate the question in three components.

    1) Children from previous marriages:

    In general, unless the children are so young that you become their primary attachment figure, the new parent can never take on the role of biological parent.  The child will always love and should have contact with the biological parent (if available), no matter what the situation is or appears to be.  Your role as the new parent will be more like a respected and loved mentor.   Here are some guidelines:

    ·         You and your new spouse must have appropriate agreed upon rights, responsibilities and roles with regard to parenting but don't expect to overcome year(s) long habits by demanding change or by getting upset.  

    ·         Speak with and come to agreement with your spouse if something needs to change.

    ·         The role of encouraging good manners will largely belong to your spouse, even when the child is disrespectful.

    ·         It is best to remove yourself (with dignity) from a disruptive situation and simply report that bad behavior to your spouse.  

    ·         Never get directly involved with the discipline between your spouse and their child.  

    ·         Never override the wishes nor authority of the ex-spouse without the explicit direction from your spouse.  It may be appropriate for all 3 adults to discuss differences but only far away from the children.

    These rules, and more, apply to children of all ages.  This can be even trickier when the child is of an adult age; remember that there are behavior patterns already established between the children and your spouse and you are not likely to win your argument even if you are correct

    2. When should children move out of the house:

    The sooner the better; OK, so maybe that is a bit tongue in cheek but it’s mostly true.  Children who are over the age of majority do not benefit by having enabling parents.  And that is the point; many a parent wants to be noble and give much to their children but a parent’s nobler task is to push them out of the nest.  Keeping them at home because they can't seem to hold a job or because they are underemployed or because the economy is bad or because the stars are not aligned correctly prevents the child from learning to build the skills they need to succeed in life. 

    This does not mean that a parent should never collaborate with a child who has a stated plan and date of departure.  The obvious example is an adult child who is actively pursuing a new career and who has a completion date for that plan.  OTOH, never agree to this sort of situation unless it is your child's plan as they will not have a similar investment in your plan.  If this advice sounds hard, remember that your child will be happier much sooner in life if you remember that their success is your real goal.

    3) How can step-parents influence biological parents:

    And this, Elizabeth, is really the crux of your question.  As you've read above, there are lots of ways you can lose these battles and not many to win.  Have agreements in principal and with specifics before you decide on your wedding date.  In your case, your fiancé should certainly be concerned foremost for your safety. It is easy to see how your fiancé is concerned for his son who has angry outbursts; OTOH, I wouldn't expect him to put you in a situation where you are concerned for your safety.

    If your safety or privacy is a concern, you should consider putting off your marriage until these issues are resolved.  Your fiancé naturally wants to care for his children, you wouldn’t want to marry him if he did not.  However, if your fiancé is not as adamant as you with regards to the living situation, you will need to consider if you can live with your husband's adult children in your home (BTW, they will consider it their home).  If you can live with that, then please feel free to go ahead with the wedding.  I strongly advise against you wishing and hoping that your fiancé will change his mind/behavior because it may not happen and this will cause continual marital discord.  You can choose to agree to living in a non-ideal situation so don't let me dissuade you if you can and will do that; just don't make your decision expecting him to change.

    I hope that helps; please feel free to contact me for clarification.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist 
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

  • Philip: What if we eloped? Open or Close

     

    My girl friend and I are both 67 years old and are practicing Catholics. We're both widowed and are free to marry. We were each married to our deceased spouses for a long and fully know what we will be doing. We've been widowed for 9 and 4 years, respectively. Not wanting to go through the trouble and expense, etc. of a church wedding is there some way we could receive the sacrament of matrimony if we eloped?

    Philip

     

    Philip,

    As you know, the Catholic Church has a policy that is rarely broken; the 'why' in your question is answered by canon law which states that a wedding must take place in a "house of God".  In most locations, that will be interpreted as being one of the churches in your diocese.  In some extraordinary cases, your Bishop could theoretically approve an alternate setting but that will usually be reserved for only those pressing cases when due to infirmity or some other special circumstance, holding the wedding in a church is not feasible.

    That said, a church wedding needn't be a lot of expense or fuss.  Many parishes will schedule marriages after mass for just you and a few close family members.  Of course, there will be a slight expense but even that could be waived by your pastor if you can convince him that is a good idea.  Have you spoken to your pastor about your desire to avoid the fuss and expense?  He may be very understanding of your point of view.

    I'm curious, does your fiancée also desire to 'elope' or would she enjoy the church wedding?  Also, have I responded to the question you'd like answered?

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist 

  • Maria: My fiancé has been sexually active prior to our engagement Open or Close

     

    Dear Ron,

    My fiance was not a virgin when we met. I didn't think it was that big of a deal at first, but lately, I keep feeling like he's going to compare me to the two other women he's had sex with, and find me lacking in some way. He swears he won't, but I don't know how to get past it.

    Any advice?


    Maria

     

    Maria,

    While it is, of course, preferable that you are both virgins at marriage, we know that doesn't happen often enough.  Having said that, there are many, many examples of non-virgins who go on to make extraordinary and faithful marriage partners.  There are also many examples of virgins who are unfaithful, inattentive or otherwise not good partners, sexual or otherwise, after marriage.  In my experience, it is the behavior after engagement and marriage which matters most.

    How can that be?  Well, while we are designed for monogamy (that is biblically AND scientifically true), we do tend to get attached to the things, people and thoughts we have during orgasm.  Many 'virgins' are consumed by their people watching, including media images and/or pornography, and many fantasize about those images when they masturbate.  These men (and yes, some women), become attached to the soothing they receive from these thoughts (even if masturbation is not present).  Without change, this person will likely not be a good and faithful partner after marriage. 

    So let's get to the solution.  Each partner must learn to become progressively more chaste as marriage approaches.  This means each partner must learn to avoid looking at others in any lusting and or sexually admiring manner.  And this, of course, means that masturbation, pornography and sexual thoughts must not be indulged.  For some people, this will be an easy task as they are not already significantly attached to sexual thoughts and images.  For others, this will be a more difficult task and may require some program and/or professional help.  Unfortunately, I deal with many men, women and marriages which suffer significant dysfunction because people did not learn these important lessons (or thought they knew better).  I beg, men and women preparing for marriage and reading this, don't ignore this advice if you want a beautiful marriage.  Hopefully you detect my passion on this topic.

    After marriage, learning to become healthily sexually engaged is an absolute necessity.  This means not only learning to be chaste but also learning that your marriage partner is not a sexual play toy.  I am not at all prudish and believe that healthy marital sexuality is integral to having a great marriage.  OTOH, I have observed that not learning these important principles routinely leads to marital dysfunction.  There are many factors which help to determine how well a marriage will work, having been sexual prior to marriage is not often one of them.  Being unfaithful in any way is always assuredly a major determinant.  I recommend Greg Popcak's book, Holy Sex! as an excellent resource on the topic of healthy marital sexuality.  

    Maria, I wonder, is there some other reason which is making you feel less secure about this matter?  Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

  • Elizabeth: Walking on Eggshells Open or Close

    Dear Ron,

    I do have one question for you. There are a few topics over which my fiance and I have had heated discussions and sometimes matters have not stood completely resolved or clarified. There are some topics which have become 'touchy' and therefore they are consciously avoided mainly because there are two strong opposing ideas. What would you recommend as the best method of handling this situation appropriately?
    I look forward to your reply. God Bless


    Elizabeth,

    Thank you for such a good question; this really speaks to a crucial part of relationships. Researchers have determined that learning to manage conflict is often the difference between having a great relationship and a dysfunctional one. It is fine that each of you has strong ideas, but will you respect each other enough to discuss those ideas in a way which will allow you to grow? I think a good way to explain this is to use a metaphor:
    Think of ideas like flowers; each of them beautiful individually. If I put only my flowers in the vase and the rest in a drawer, my partner’s ideas will wither and my bouquet will lack its complete potential. Likewise, if only my partner’s flowers are watered then my flowers (ideas) will wither. Sometimes it is so difficult to arrange our ideas that we just put all of them in a drawer where they all wilt and die. To make the bouquet truly beautiful, we will artfully combine my flowers with yours to produce the most elegant combination.

    Wise people (yes, not ‘right’ but wise) will make something beautiful from each bunch of ideas. Partners in healthy relationships consider each idea valuable, allowing them to be openly and respectfully discussed; EVEN WHEN we don’t think our partner’s ideas make sense.  You are building a relationship, not a business. When ideas are put in a drawer because discussing them is too difficult, eventually the relationship dies a slow death. I have not said that you must agree on every idea; absolutely not; the idea is to make the relationship grow, not to simply be ‘right’. Sometimes we respectfully agree to disagree (not passive-aggressively) to discuss the matter at a later time. Have I convinced you that it is imperative to respectfully discuss your ideas?

    Your email title ‘Walking On Eggshells’, however, speaks to an extreme lack of idea sharing and respect. That can mean many things, but if anger is always present when some topic is discussed (presuming each of you is of sound mind and free of addictions), it probably means there is displaced anger. For example, if I get upset each time you try to bring up the topic of my tardiness, my anger would not be about your question, but caused by some negative association I am making in my mind. That, by the way, is my hill to climb and not yours.

    Further, if there is a consistent/persistent pattern of anger around a variety of topics being raised, there is some other problem to solve.  As I implied above, perhaps an addiction (even to anger) is the cause, or perhaps the angry person just needs to be heard. Whatever the cause, it must be solved if you wish to have a fruitful life together. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance, and blessings on your relationship.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

     
     
  • Landon: What is your stance on spanking ? Open or Close

    "Dear Ron,

    I have a follow up question about spanking. The extra reading was against spanking and made the argument based on spiritual beliefs. I was raised Catholic as was my mom, cousins, and uncles. We were all spanked. What is your stance on spanking and can you share some personal experiences with us (of you as a child and as a parent)? One last thing. If it's "wrong" to spank according to the church, why did nuns in school slap kids on the hands with rulers? Thanks for the extra input!" - Landon

    Landon,

    The nuns practiced what can be referred to as ‘Corporal Discipline’ (CD): (Note my deliberate use of the less inflammatory word ‘discipline’ in place of the more commonly used, ‘corporal punishment’).

    Many Christians have attempted to use biblical citations over the centuries to justify or prohibit CD ; it seems we can support both positions biblically, so this is tricky. Many references in Proverbs and Kings seem to support CD, Proverbs 23:14 is most assuredly the inspiration behind William Butler’s 1664 poem which counsels “spare the rod and spoil the child”.  Many of us in 2015 would rather listen to the admonishment of Jesus when he says “Go, and sin no more”. But He, of course, was not talking in that instance about raising children.

    The field of psychology is similarly conflicted.  Here’s what we do know: a typical child of 3, or 4, or 13, or 14 has less reasoning power than a typical adult of 30 years; to be sure, a two year old has a sponge for a brain but the ‘thinking’ part of our brain (mostly the pre-frontal cortex) is massively underdeveloped. That is true in most cases until the later teen years; we even know from brain science that the pre-frontal cortex isn’t completely functional until the late twenties. While the specifics in each child are different, we know that we are not as successful at reasoning with a young child as you might be with an adult.

    Thus, we are presented with a challenge, how do we impart wisdom in a child who has limited reasoning skills?  This reminds me of an old joke about how we learn wisdom. A man had just received a major promotion, a new employee asked; “how did you do it?  "Two words said the man; ‘Right decisions’." "And how do you make right decisions?" "One word; ‘Experience’." "And how did you get Experience?" "Two words; ‘Wrong decisions’." Our decisions, right or wrong, provide consequences which lead to wisdom. Thus, in order to teach children, we use various appropriate forms of consequences (sometimes know as discipline) alongside our attempts at reasoning.

    So, was the nun in your school teaching you wisdom by having you experience the consequences of your wrong decisions? Maybe. I don’t know of the authority nor of the research the nuns were relying on for using this method but I do know they were a bright and well-educated group. You and I both know that is considered ‘old school’ but I suspect there was a kernel of truth in the method and if it was delivered swiftly and dispassionately then it may well have been a valid way to ‘discipline’ a young child. I would be the first to suggest that if it was accompanied by ostracization, contempt or fear inducing anger that it would have been counter-productive but I can’t make the case that it didn’t work if it was delivered as a deliberate educational technique.

    In any case, my personal admonishment is that since we adults have imperfect control of our emotions, consistently delivering any sort of CD with dignity and love can be very tricky. It is our absolute duty to create boundaries for our children and boundaries, of course, must include stated consequences or they are just suggestions. If we are careful to create and state sensible consequences we can avoid the risks incumbent with CD. Nobody said child-rearing was easy.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

  • Emily: How does marriage change an existing relationship? Open or Close

    Hi Emily,

    The short answer is yes, your relationship will change!  It will change in many ways for the better and one central component, commitment, will make it all work better. Commitment brings trust and security and fosters beauty.  Additionally, it is often the one ingredient which will counteract betrayal. Think about this: over the years you will likely betray your partner, for example, by being disinterested in his concerns or by losing interest in being sexual. Of course, your partner will also almost assuredly betray your trust as well in one of the twelve non-sexual ways we betray the trust of our partner. 

    Commitment is not solely the ring or the ceremony, commitment has greater meaning. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman states: "A committed relationship is a contract of mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual protection, and mutual nurturance." Commitment helps us to love even the worst parts of our partner.

    This is one reason the Church insists on a thorough marriage preparation program. Potential partners must solidly decide if they, together, will commit to the values which will carry them through the trials which will certainly come in your many years together. Research (and common sense) shows that relationships without commitment will fail more easily in the face of the trials you will have over the years.

    Emily, there are certainly other ways relationships change after marriage, most of them for the better, but commitment, coupled with trust is the foundation of every good marriage.  
    Your question is a good one and I want to be certain I addressed your concern. Is there some other specific area you are wondering about?

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

  • Mark: Should I tell her? Open or Close
    Dear Ron,
    I had an abortion with my previous girlfriend. I'm not too proud of this bad decision. I haven't told my fiancée. Is it important for her to know or should I just keep going without telling?

     

    Dear Mark,

    There is a balancing act we sometimes do in life.  In most cases, my advice to each partner on the journey to marriage is to avoid detailed discussions of previous partners as this can cause some anxiety in wondering about all of the experiences with other(s).  This is an issue of maturity, consider: 1) do I have the maturity to not upset myself by wondering, digging, picking, and; 2) do I have the maturity to understand that my new partner had a life before me?  The mature and principled person will choose to live serenely and to allow your new partner to show you, through behaviors, the type of person you've chosen. Choosing this path will strengthen 'impulse control', AKA, 'maturity' and allow us to be more loving towards our partner.  Maturity is desired in both the 'sharer' and the 'listener'; telling too much is the same sign of immaturity as asking too much.

    However, I warned you that the other shoe would drop.  It also takes maturity to discern which items must be shared.  Thinking about it for a moment, most would agree that it is appropriate to divulge that we have children, or that we were previously married or that we had spent a significant amount of time incarcerated.  Revealing our significant life events gives our partner some insight into the forces which have helped to shape us.  A man or woman who has been personally involved with an abortion is not a 'bad' person but it is indicative of forces which have helped to shape us.  If we don't share that information, our new partner is at a significant disadvantage in understanding us.

    There is another, possibly even more important reason, to share these types of events. When we hold onto important information, information that we know is important to fully understanding us, we have created a secret of omission. Chances are that at some point in the future, the secret will be revealed.  At that time, your partner will always feel cheated.  Cheated by not knowing such a significant fact about the person they love and cheated that the one person in the world they should trust most has betrayed them.  Worse yet, when we know we are 'hiding' something significant, we  create a 'web of lies' to protect our secret. This protective behavior will cause us to subtly, but assuredly, avoid some bids for intimacy from our partner.

    I hope this post helps you to decide your correct path; if you are still in doubt, ask yourself, honestly and prayerfully, if you would consider your secret a violation of trust if it were your partner's secret.  And, if you still have questions about what must be revealed, consult with a mentor or go back to the previous page to set up a session with me.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

  • Esther: How Can Masturbation Impact a Marriage? Open or Close
    The discussion on pornography led me to thinking about another common problem: habitual masturbation.
    How can masturbation impact a marriage and what can the spouse do to support someone who is struggling with a masturbation addiction?

     

    Dear Esther,

    Thank you for this important question. I will make a bold statement: masturbation is never desired in a marital setting, it always leads to marital dissatisfaction. Here’s why:
    When we are sexually excited, a series of bodily chemicals and hormones are released.  When we look at pornography, we stimulate some of those chemicals.  When we masturbate we stimulate even more of those bodily chemicals. In natural occurrence, those chemicals are released during the sex act with our partner and they serve the purpose to help us 'love' our partner. 

    So what happens when one partner uses those love chemicals with his or her self?  The short story is that the chemicals are released and perform the same brain function except that the other partner is not present to build love.   Because this is an area of counseling specialization for me, I have come to see this effect on hundreds of men (usually men, but not always) who use porn and masturbation.

    My observation, as confirmed by virtually all of those men, is that over a long period of time (from age ~12 to ??) the behaviors lead them to become self-absorbed.  Instead of serving to build love with our spouse, those behaviors cause a sort of self-love, which makes it harder to love our partner.  Let's think about that: the chemicals designed to help us love our spouse are used to help us love the only person present at that time of release which prevents full love with our spouse.  That is the harmful effect porn and masturbation will have on a marriage.  If you are interested, a more complete discussion of the chemical components can be found at http://www.recoveringhearts.com/Chemical-Soup.html.

    The second part of your question is also very important, "how should a spouse support a partner who uses porn and masturbation?"  The short answer, of course, is that love is appropriate, that is: tough love.  It is entirely appropriate to create a boundary to protect yourself from that partner.  Understanding what boundaries are appropriate is beyond the scope of this response but if the thought of boundaries seems ‘mean’ or ‘cruel’, then consider this:
    If your partner is masturbating, they are robbing you from the emotional engagement you should expect from a lifetime partner.  This can be tricky, some partners who rob you of affection in that way will appear on the outside to be very attentive but that will ultimately be exposed as fools gold.  Eventually that ‘gold’ will wear thin and many years later you will come to see those actions as a way which was used to avoid real intimacy.

    To be certain, if someone masturbates a ‘couple’ (2-3) times per year, there is probably little harm.  Which means, if someone masturbates very infrequently then it should be easy for them to stop.  If your partner cannot stop once you've explained that it feels unsafe to you and that makes it damaging to the relationship, then it is probably addictive.  The test I use is this: Will the person stop once they realize that it is causing harm to their relationship?  If not, and especially if that person begins to hide the behavior please refer them to me for possible sex/porn addiction testing.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling

  • Amanda: He Yells and Swears at Me Open or Close
    If Peter is the one working and I am not, and he wants to monopolize the television, or make me get him his food and everything, and I just want to relax, normally, I just give in and do it after he yells and swears at me. Then I choose to watch TV shows on my computer instead. Is there a better way to deal with this behavior?

    Dear Amanda and Peter,
    From the information given by Amanda, it would be easy for me to assume that Peter is not willing to serve the needs of his spouse but maybe it's not quite that simple.  Since you are not yet married, let me ask a different question.  What sort of marriage do you each want?

    Using categories defined by Dr. Gregory Popcak, would you like a 'Shipwrecked' marriage in which the woman typically is afraid to speak what she wants and needs and where the husband would rather die than change?
    Perhaps you would like a Conventional marriage in which each you each take your identity from what you do (e.g., career or motherhood) but not from the intimacy of marriage?
    Or would you choose an Exceptional marriage in which you each embrace the changes which will enhance both your personal and married goals?

    Many men and women think they want the Exceptional category until they begin to understand what it will take to make a marriage Exceptional.
    This can be a tough and soul-searching conversation which you will probably have to have with your priest or another professional who knows what this will take.  May I suggest that you place your wedding plans on hold until you've had that conversation.

    Nobody wants to get married only to discover soon that they are on the path to a Shipwrecked marriage.

    Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
    National Certified Counselor #267299
    AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist
    Recovering Hearts Counseling


     

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