Dear Dan


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

Names have been changed to protect the couples' privacy.




Hi Dan,

I am reaching out to you for help on saving my marriage of 5 years and family of 3. I have betrayed my wife, and now she is completely set on getting a divorce. I don't know how to continue to fight for this marriage when she wants nothing to do with me now.

I have lied to my wife about watching pornography and masturbating. I also lied to her about stuff that happened when we were dating and broken up for a month (I'll explain if necessary). I masturbated to porn and social media pictures of ex's from 10-11 years ago. When she found me out, I didn't open up completely, but after a few weeks and some hesitation, she now knows all that I've done even though she believes there is still more that I am not telling her. I've not masturbated, watched pornography videos, or looked up my ex's since she has found out (6 months), but she still believes that I am betraying her behind her back. She believes I want to be with my ex's and that I've been communicating with them, but I don't and haven't.

She can't trust me or believe me anymore and calls me a compulsive liar. I recognize that I have really hurt her. She is completely torn from this and it has really messed us up. She says she will never trust me again, will never forgive me, scared to continue this marriage because she believes I will hurt her again and that being together is only hurting her more as we keep dragging this on.

We have been trying to make things work, but she keeps thinking I'm doing stuff behind her back and then we get into the arguments all over again. I don't know how I can save this marriage, but I want to. To her, her only choice is now divorce (she's already looking at how to file for it) because she wants nothing more to do with me and she is unable to heal. What do I do? I do truly love her and can't stand the thought of being without her. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.



Hi Brendan,

Thank you for your email.

I would recommend getting a local couples counselor involved as soon as possible, if you have not already. More than any counselor, I would recommend a counselor who deals with the area of pornography/sexual purity and who has a view of Catholic marriage. In addition, a good priest can also be a valuable support and resource for confession.

For you: I would recommend finding and meeting with a good group of men who are working on these areas as well. Sexaholics Anonymous can be a good resource, a secular organization, but you can find many Christian men attending. I also recently became aware of another group called: They have local and virtual meetings. Is another resource that can be helpful.

For your wife: She may benefit from looking at She can subscribe to watch their various videos on the topic, which can offer some clarity and support. They also have a phone in meeting for wives.

Hope that helps for starters. If you have specific questions or you want to follow up and schedule a meeting, please let me know.

God Bless.

Dan Spadaro, LPC
Imago Dei Counseling


Dear Dan,

my wife and I (married Catholics) are unable to use natural family planning (sex that is both unitive and "open to life"), given that she has highly irregular and unpredictable menstrual cycles. We would like to have children, but financial and other life events prevent us from having children until many years.

My questions are: first: is it possible to have a holy sexual relationship in accordance with Church teaching, if sex is unitive but not "open to life", given our situation? My understanding is that the answer is no.

If not, what should romance/intimacy look like between a married couple in this position (i.e., where sex could only be unitive but not procreative).

It seems to me that in this scenario, the married couple would be mostly celibate, except for the few times where they are trying to conceive (perhaps 2-3 times over their life pan). This seems very difficult to achieve, although it is possible. Furthermore, although this may be spiritually moral in light of Church teaching, I also feel like the complete lack of the unitive aspect of sex could cause distance between spouses within their marriage.

I appreciate your advice.



Hello Benjamin,

So to your question: First, the short answer is no. Being open to life, sexuality and marriage go hand in hand with each other. If a couple focuses only on the unitive, they will ironically lose it. Avoiding life can be destructive to the unity of a couple, as it leads to making sex more just about an experience, which very quickly turns towards selfishness, rather than giving myself. So especially as a Catholic, the default position is being open to life, unless for serious reasons and at that point a couple would use NFP to respect both ends. Since I am not a theologian some additional quick thoughts can be found here:

You mention the need to avoid pregnancy for "many years." I would allow this thinking to be challenged. Is our financial situation creating a very significant burden, would be at least one question to ask. In the true sense of prudence, I would highly recommend discussing the particulars of your situation with a solid/knowledgeable priest, doctor, etc. The goal here is to objectively look at the evidence of the situation and see how it could be remedied or to find out from parents what it takes to financially support a young child. I often find that God challenges us to see his will for us and that often requires a level of evaluating our priorities. For some possible medical support see:

If you need to be abstinent for a season (ideally short), then to be sure there are lots of means of affection (hugs, kisses, holding hands, back rubs....and the list goes on) which are not leading towards sex, but can also be very unitive.

I would encourage you to seek out good counsel and persevere. Welcoming a baby into your marriage (if that should happen) can be a very awesome blessing.

Dan Spadaro, LPC
Imago Dei Counseling


Dear Dan,

The topic of opposite sex friendships has been pretty prevalent in our relationship and we are just curious to your insight on what it should look like for a Catholic couple.

Gina and Jordan


Hello Gina and Jordan,

Thank you for the question about maintaining outside friendships with the opposite sex during engagement or marriage.

So your question falls under the topic of boundaries in marriage and the goal of a boundary is always to preserve the "good." In this case the good to be preserved is the primacy of the marital friendship.

I think many couples can share in the previous friendships of their spouse. In this case, it is possible that these friendships can continue if both are comfortable with the person, to the extent that they value a common lifestyle, and the outside person(s) show respect for the marriage of the couple. It is obviously important to avoid physical and emotional attachments. But I also think that the context of the friendship would change. The old friend would now be involved in doing things with the couple instead of individually with the person of the opposite sex. In a separate situation where one spouse wants to be friendly and associate with new people of the opposite sex, this would obviously be more of a concern as the focus in marriage is to strengthen intimacy, commitment, and friendship with the spouse and this would run counter.

So it is good to have this resolved and be on the same page before marriage as it would otherwise cause a lot of difficulty and heartache. It can be good to remember that a boundary is employed regardless of emotions or feelings. One spouse might say, "It is not an issue, because I am not attracted or have feelings for this person," but boundaries function regardless of feelings or attraction. They are basic rules of life, in this case to protect a marriage. In my experience in marriage, you find that the majority of your outside friendships are with other couples.

Hope that helps!
Dan Spadaro, LPC
Imago Dei Counseling

My husband is an only child. His parents are divorced and despise each other the point where one may not show up to the wedding if the other is attending. They fight over his affection which causes my husband to choose sides when he does not want to. I try to tell help him stand up to his parents at time but he usually just gives in to avoid fighting with either one of his parents. We decide not to do the unity candle due to the frustration it has caused. I love them both individually but sadly this cases a problem in our marriage.



Thanks for your question, how unfortunate divorce is for children of any age.  Behaviors like you describe by his parents are terribly devastating.  When I think of this problem, I contemplate 3 separate issues; thus, I'll divide my response into those three parts: 

The parents:  Probably the best way to see the parents is as people in pain.  When people are in pain, they can become quite selfish and, frankly, unholy.  This means they can see only their own pain and not the pain of others (especially your husband, more on this later).  When interacting with people in pain, we often make the mistake of trying to reason with them and/or to expect them to be reasonable, but they are not.  They are not reasonable because their brains are desperately trying to alleviate their own pain; as for your husband, in those times, he is not so much a beloved son, but a mechanism to potentially relieve pain.  They bargain with your husband in an attempt to gain an ally against the other parent.  Of course, each parent could choose to ally with the son for relationship's sake but their pain prevents it.

What can your husband do? The last section is not meant as harsh rhetoric, I would simply like to speak to your husband's effort to receive love from them.  Though I'm sure they would disagree, they are medicating their own pain, not pursuing his well-being.  The only possible answer for him is to have firm boundaries such as, "Dad, if you choose to speak negatively towards mom again, I will begin to distance myself from you.  I love both of you but I will not be a party, in any way, to mom bashing".   The folks at CMP have an association with Life Giving Wounds.  Great information, including books on setting boundaries can be found at this link: For Adult Children of Divorce — Life-Giving Wounds

Your husband's pain:  It is unlikely that your husband's pain began when his parents began divorce proceedings.  If they are behaving as you say, I suspect your husband is used to playing a pawn in their lives.  No doubt the reason why setting boundaries has been hard is that he has become conditioned to their use of him to medicate their pains.  Your husband needs to speak with someone about his own pain, to help him grow and love.  Your husband, I'm sure himself a good man, has been trained to see at least some love as being conditional.  You both may need counseling to grow in this area.  Perhaps he can find a resource at the web site I linked above.  

Patty, be patient with your husband as he wrestles with this issue, but don't enable him.  You get to set boundaries too, if appropriate.

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

Main goals:

  • To help couples integrate St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body into their whole life.
  • They discover the dignity of each Person.
  • They form their conscience to the beauty and complementarity of their different missions as man and woman, to the nobleness and worth of their sexuality, as well as to the fruitfulness of their love.
  • They discover the incomparable value of each life.
  • They also enter deeply into the Sacrament of Matrimony, the “primordial” sacrament, as St. John Paul II called it.
    “That mystery, as God’s salvific plan in regard to humanity, is in a certain sense the central theme of all revelation, its central reality. It is the most ancient revelation (manifestation) of the plan in the created world.”TOB Sept. 8th, 1982 – p.p. 321-22

The program helps couples pass from an intellectual understanding of the Faith to actually experience God’s love and presence in their daily lives.
It makes them to understand that Marriage is a vocation, it is the path they choose to answer to God’s call to help each other become the Persons God created them to be.

The program started as a live course in 1999 for the Archdiocese of Denver. It is deeply rooted in the Teachings of the Catholic Church, especially John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
It became the First online interactive Catholic marriage prep program in May 2004 under the name Catholic Marriage it is available in - English – Spanish – French
It is under the patronage of Saints like St Joseph, St Paul, St Maximillien Kolbe and Saint John Paul II.


Hi Ron.
Me and my Fiance have been talking about future kids and his career. Tom works on ships for 12 weeks at a time. As the woman I am a little worried about how that will work on my side. Do have any suggestions. Tom loves his job but is willing to make changes. 



Thanks for your inquiry; this is a very interesting question. 
Your situation could work in either direction; sometimes, 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' is truthful.


Here are some realities:

1) Someone will do the job Tom does; will he be married?

2) The culture on the ship is important; does it support chastity in marriage?  Does it support a Godly environment?

3) Unless you have a lot of support (usually local family) you will be swamped by the time you get to you second child, and I'd wager you will feel lonely during those 12 weeks when he is gone.

4) We know from the many deployments of military personnel that separation is a risky business; porn and even affairs have been rampant in Iraq; a well-hidden but accurate assessment.


This is one of those questions were there is no 'correct' answer and is largely a matter of the maturity and commitment of you and Tom. 

It is, of course, risky; I would, instinctively, recommend against it because it's a bit like starting a baseball game when you are already down 3-0. 
On the other hand, if Tom is a good man and you are capable of being strong and mature during the many trials you will have while he is gone, it can work


Why don't you each make a list of pros and cons and use the lists as an opportunity to have great discussions about this.  Be careful that you do not violate your heart; if you are uncomfortable about the situation; Tom' s absence won't make it feel better.  You may need to speak with a counselor personally to unpack your feelings about this.


Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Certified Therapist
National Certified Counselor #267299

Hi Ron.
I suspect my partner has love addiction because he has been communicating with women and ex partners in secret.
I am worried on how to address this because the issue does not seem to get resolved and it seems to be a pattern.
Please help.



Your partner's behavior is very worrisome.  The man you marry should be faithful to you and to his marriage.  You should not accept this sort of tryst in your life.  His behavior won't change and it won't stop unless;
1) You must state, unequivocally, that you will not allow that sort of infidelity in your marriage and your life, and;
2) your partner must commit to you, but mostly to himself, that he will put in the work to rid his behavior from your lives; it does take work to escape from this sort of addictive behavior.

Though I can't diagnose merely from your question, it does appear as if your partner is indeed a 'love addict' or perhaps a sex addict.  Does he masturbate?  And especially, is that masturbation part of his secret affairs?  If so, he likely does not understand the destructiveness of his behavior because addictions make us 'blind' to our own destructiveness; technically, we call this feature of addictions 'denial'.  You say this behavior is done 'in secret', in other words he is hiding it; he could even be hiding its destructiveness from himself.  He may be giving himself 'permission' to be unfaithful because, in the moment, he may not even think of this behavior as being harmful.  He may even resent you for objecting to his behavior. 

So, while you may not have given me enough information to make all of these claims about his behavior, I would proceed very cautiously until your partner comes to understand what it means to be faithful and chaste.

For more information on what to do about this, I'd ask you to read my response to 'My fiancée had an affair!' on the 'Dear Ron' page.  Please feel free to contact me by replying to this email if you have any further questions.

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


Picture: "'Love addict' tag" by jepoirrier is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit


Hi Ron,

My fiancé and I have been in a long-distance relationship all throughout dating and our engagement. 
He has struggled since high school with pornography and masturbation and has been very honest with me about this struggle since early on in our relationship and is actively seeking to overcome it. He downloaded Covenant Eyes and hasn't viewed pornography for 9 months, although he says the temptation is still there and he is very open about sharing this with me, especially when the temptation is strong. Masturbation is a daily temptation for him, but he goes months at a time without it, most recently he went over 4 months without masturbating, but unfortunately today he gave in to the temptation and told me about it right away and went straight to confession. I know that he is actively seeking to overcome this, but there is a part of me that gets scared if it is something that will be harmful to our marriage. He knows my stance on it and understands that it is a grave sin and he has a deep desire to overcome it once and for all and I want to support him in that. There is a part of me that worries whether or not it is ok to get married while it is still a struggle. Is it still considered a serious struggle when it only happens once every few months, I understand that it is a grave sin and he does too. How can I best support him to be free from this and overcome it completely.

Thank you,

Thank you for this heartfelt question, Susan, I’m sure this is worrisome to both of you.
You and your fiancée seem to be thoughtful, faithful and moral Catholics; nonetheless, he is right to keep trying to rid himself of his behavior and you are right to be concerned. I don’t think there is cause to panic but rather, to understand why his path has been difficult and what changes to make.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call him Joe if that’s OK. I appreciate the fact that Joe has not masturbated in 4 months, but you state that it is a daily temptation. That tells me something is amiss; that’s not about trusting Joe nor questioning his motives, rather, I imagine Joe needs some advice (information), probably some coaching and a few good men with whom to share his burden.

Some things for both of you to consider:

a) Joe may be thinking of you, maybe even looking at a picture of you and allowing himself to fantasize sexually (not being presented as a ‘good’ alternative).
b) Joe may be allowing himself to look at non-pornographic images which, nonetheless, cause him to fantasize about sexual thoughts.
c) Joe may just be feeling a bit of morning testosterone and it may bring an image/thought to his mind.

All these situations, and more, will cause his temptation to masturbate to stay alive in his mind.  Our brain (as opposed to our mind) is amoral, it doesn’t make judgments about thoughts, nor about the chemical urges it detects or presents. In the past, Joe has indulged himself and has ‘trained’ his brain to understand what brought him pleasure and relief. Now, when he thinks some of those thoughts, his brain presents the same solution… “come on, Joe, this will take your mind off those thoughts”. Thus, masturbation becomes the elephant in the room; it becomes impossible not to think about until he gives in and then the thoughts temporarily go away only to lurk until the next time the brain once again sees this as the solution.

Here are some recommendations for Joe (and you).

  1. Don’t panic: recognize that this is a problem for two healthy young people to solve and that it has been solved many times in the past by people just like yourselves. 
  2. Recognize that Joe is not ‘bad’ nor particularly ‘sinful’, innately, but that he has trained his brain to use the masturbation chemicals to solve temporary life problems. This is a bit like me eating a chocolate bar when I’m fidgety; it’s not good for me but in that moment, it sure seems like it is.
  3. Joe must begin the process of ‘retraining’ his brain to a) reject the masturbation ‘solution’, and; b) to find new more creative solutions to those problems. 
    Make sure to check this file, ‘Recovery Basics’ which outlines a 3-layer approach to accomplishing that goal.  I also recommend a book by a friend, Dr. Doug Weiss, called ‘Sex, Men & God’ which is helpful for its explanations and for the solutions it contains.  There are many helpful books which deal with solutions to this problem, start with this one to get a very practical perspective.

You are right to be concerned, the long-term effects of continuing this habit into marriage will not be good. Masturbation will always lead to marital dissatisfaction. It will not only rob you of the power of intimacy power which sex is designed to provide, it will cause friction between you, and will also cause Joe to become more and more self-absorbed (over years) as it becomes reinforced as his solution to marital discord.

But, don’t panic: As I stated earlier, the solution is sort of like picking up your lunch pail and going to work each day. If you both approach this as the re-making of a habit, you will succeed and go on to live happy, productive, and holy lives together.

God bless and let me know if you have further questions.

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

Hi Ron,

My fiancée and I have been having disagreements about spending time with our friends. We both have good friends in town and in nearby cities. 
We both talk about planning
time to spend with our friends, however I seem to be the only one who follows through on those plans. Subsequently, we spend much more time with my friends than hers. I haven't even met 3 of her best friends because she has never made plans with them and we have been together for 7 years!  The problem comes because she gets upset because "we only spend time with your friends and only do what you want to do". I have always enjoyed spending time with her friends and love her friends I have met. She makes me feel guilty about only spending time with my friends, but won’t ever make plans with hers. 
Any suggestions??



Thanks so much for this great question.  You didn’t provide a name, so I’ll call your fiancée ‘Fia’ to simplify my response.

Friends are important; they provide outlets for fun, learning, networking, validation, clarification and more.  For a guy, well, iron sharpens iron; we need good men in our life for accountability and growth.  I have no issue with you having and maintaining friends.  This is true also for Fia though her ‘friend needs’ will be slightly different from yours.

I wonder if Fia feels something of a third wheel when with your friends, not to mention that it might be guy dominated activities.  You do what you and your friends want to do and maybe she feels left out.  No need to object that you try to get her to suggest something because I suspect this is about her feelings, not about what you suggested.

Since this is a chronic disagreement, and you say, “she makes me feel guilty about only spending time with my friends”, something tells me this is not entirely about friends so let’s evaluate. You say you’ve ‘been together’ for 7 years but you don’t say how long you’ve been engaged?  If that has been a significant period of time, let’s say 3 ½ years, perhaps Fia is thinking about creating a Fia and Kevin life more so than a Fia, Kevin and friends’ life?  Have you explored that possibility

I suggest two tracks to help get to a better place with this:

  1. Ask Fia about her feelings, not about facts, or intentions, and certainly, not about ‘friends’. This is likely NOT about friends. Think of it this way; if your friend Jim said ‘you stink’ after you just played a pickup game, you’d probably agree and the two of you would share a good laugh; you’d be sharing happy feelings. However, if that same friend ignored you by not including you in a big party he threw with his best friends, your feelings might be hurt. You see bad feelings are about the hurt and the emotional pain, not about a party.  Fia’s feelings might be hurt because she wants more of your time, not your friends’ time.
    Here’s a funny video along with some helpful commentary from Dr. Joanne Stephenson which helps to illustrate this point about feelings: “Dr. Joanne on It’s not About the Nail”. To have a successful relationship, we need to be able to negotiate these things called feelings which are more likely (about 90%-10%) to matter more so than the facts.  This means you must ask Fia about her feelings, THEN you must actively listen and care about her response.
  2. Alternate, ON PURPOSE, your weekly activities.  To avoid some of these not so meaningful squabbles, you must both take responsibility for your activities.  Alternate weeks; during week 1, Fia gets to choose all of the activities, ranging from a night on the couch watching a movie to a night out at the ball; of course, it’s your turn the following week.  You can choose baseball every night, I suppose.  The point is that you both decide, as I said, on purpose, your activities rather than defaulting to your agenda in the absence of Fia choosing.   =This way she gets to do exactly what she wants to do ½ the time.

Remember Kevin, it’s not likely about the nail (friends) but it is likely about Fia’s needs.  Ask her and then listen, as the video shows.
Please let me know if this helps (or not).  Thanks.

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


How do you let go of your spouse's past? Especially if someone that he may have been intimate with is still in his life (the girl is one of his brother's good friends...he does not communicate with her). My past is not pretty and I feel terrible holding onto his when he has let mine go. How do I let it all go?



Thank you for this question, unfortunately it is not an uncommon one.

I need to be extremely clear, you have suffered an injury even though your spouse was apparently not married to you at the time and therefore has not broken his vow with you.  You are not absolved from your responsibility to heal, but you must understand that an injury has occurred.  That injury occurred when you learned of that other woman.  It seems to me there are two facets to deal with: 1) you suspect (?) that she was intimate (sexual or otherwise) with your spouse, and; 2) that woman is still in his life, even if only tangentially

Some speak about the idea of soul ties, a sort of spiritual connection; they make the case that the bible speaks of soul ties.  For example, 1 Corinthians 6:16 says “do you not realize that anyone who attaches himself to a prostitute is one body with her, since the two, as it is said, become one flesh.”  There is something mystical, something spiritual about the tie between lovers.  I suspect that your mind believes that your spouse has such a soul tie with this woman.

What to do?  I wish there was a simple pill or incantation, but past ties must be dealt with thoroughly.  This means that you and your spouse should not fear discussing this; not aimlessly, but with the purpose of breaking all past ties.  I suggest rigorous honesty which may need to be facilitated by another, perhaps a minister or other trusted counsel.  The honesty must be rigorous, but gentle and certainly not brutal.  For example, you can’t go through life wondering if your husband has been sexual with that other woman, but you don’t really want to know about passion, positions or promises.  If something happened in the past, it is in the past; we must break the connection; once that is done, we are free of it and of the psychological tie.  This is a two-way street, you must be rigorously honest with your spouse.  Once you have had full disclosure, I recommend that you go together to confession (one after the other) to ask the Lord to put these ties behind you.  Additionally, if your pastor or another minister in your church has helped you walk through disclosure, he may have recommendations for you as a couple.  Your spouse can’t break his relationship with his brother, but he must (and you must) get rid of any remembrances of any past person.  This includes any vows, oaths or commitments; disavow them forever.  He must also, at least until you are healed, avoid any situation which could put him in contact with that woman

It is unlikely that either of you wants to talk about past sins; why would you?  In many situations I might recommend deciding against such past disclosure, but in your case, those soul ties haunt you.  I suspect that it’s not just your spouse’s past but yours which haunts you and that you wish to be free of it.  Honesty is paramount, make an agreement with your spouse that you wish to be free of any past encumbrances and that those past sins will not separate you; it is so easy to justify ‘a little lie’ or to hold back an important detail but that will haunt each of you.  I have met with many married couples of 20 or 30 years who still struggle because secrets were kept when honesty was requested

Additionally, you will struggle when (if) you find out he had a sexual relationship with that woman prior to marriage.  The initial pain will be searing; it will want to stay with you because this is (more) trauma.

Two conditions must take place for you to heal,

1) your husband must care for and support you, and;
2) you must work diligently on forgiveness.  Forgive out loud, forgive both your husband and the other person.  Try this: when no one else is around, place two chairs facing a third; place the two about a foot apart from one another and about 3-5 feet away from the third chair.  Sit in the chair facing the other two chairs.  First, forgive the other woman, she is in one chair.  Do this out loud, unconditionally and with conviction because Jesus is sitting in the other chair.  When you have forgiven the woman, ask Jesus to bless your vow of forgiveness.  Take a break and notice that you should feel lighter in spirit.  Next, switch the exercise by putting your husband in the place of the woman.  As you did previously, forgive your husband unconditionally and with conviction; believe it!  And then ask Jesus to bless your forgiveness.  As happened with the first part of the exercise, you should notice that you are lighter in spirit.  But here’s the thing about forgiveness, you must forgive every day it bothers you.  Don’t be concerned if you wake up one morning and you feel insecure about it again, just repeat a forgiveness exercise that works for you.  Forgiveness is not about the other person, not in the least.  Forgiveness is about the state of your own heart; you must own it completely which is why, in this exercise, you are asking Jesus to bless your forgiveness and making sure that you aren’t blaming the other person.

BTW: there is and added benefit to this work; learning forgiveness is one of life’s essential skills!

Please let me know if this helps.  Thanks.

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


I recently found out that my fiancé has had a history of viewing pornography since he was 13. We have had many conversations about the topic, and he truly feels that he has overcome it through confession and prayer. He does not believe that he had a very big problem with pornography. In the most recent past, it seems to have been an "every once in a while" thing, though it was more frequent early on. It has been about 5 months since he was last tempted and gave into it.

I just found out about everything in the last couple of weeks. He really feels at peace and that it is not something that will tempt him in the future, especially since he has seen my reaction of disappointment and sadness to his history. I do trust him and feel confident in his ability to avoid temptation in the future. 

I have been having trouble forgiving him, though. I constantly think about the effects it may have had on our relationship while dating, and how it may alter his expectations for intimacy in marriage. I feel like I have been lied to and cheated. I was naive in always thinking that he was too strong or too morally correct to even be tempted by pornography. I have trouble looking at him the same now. I second guess things I say to him, because in my mind he is not as perfect as everyone, including myself, always thought of him. I love him and want to move past this, but how can I move toward acceptance and forgiveness so that we can move on and I am not consumed by these thoughts? Debbie


With your indulgence, I will get to your question of 'Forgiveness and moving on' in a bit.  First, I'd like to address some issues around porn and why ‘forgiveness and moving on’ may be difficult for you.

Consider this: does your brain really believe that your fiancé has 'moved on' from porn (a pernicious form of infidelity)?  THIS is an interesting and difficult question.  I wish to make clear from the start that I choose to believe your fiancé is a sincere and good-hearted man.  My professional (and personal) experience, however, warns me that his answers 'every once in a while' and 'about 5 months since he was last tempted' sound very similar to denial-based comments I hear virtually every week in my office.

'Denial' is not a conscious mechanism, it is a function of addiction.  Here's what denial looks like: 1) we almost never remember accurately the actual number of times we've indulged; 2) we almost never remember accurately the last time we acted out; 3) we always believe we are more capable at eradicating it than we actually are.  I'll add later what to do about this but if your brain has trouble really believing that your fiancé has totally 'moved on', it is not unwarranted fear.

I am not accusing your fiancé, but I have counseled many men who have confessed sexual sin on hundreds of occasions.  I am reminded of two popular and prolific Catholic authors/speakers on this topic: 1) Scott Hahn who once stated that his experience told him that about 25% of the men in the pews suffer with sexual sin, and; 2) Jeff Cavins, who in referencing Scott's speech stated that his experience tells him that Scott's number was probably about ½ of the real number; my personal experience makes me wonder if even that high percentage is enough.

A 2016 survey of a large Catholic HS shows that ~90% of the boys viewed porn with most of that number viewing multiple times per week.  This is a pernicious problem but I don't particularly blame the boys.  I do, however, hold the young men accountable to do whatever is necessary to prevent this scourge from negatively impacting themselves and others.

You state that you often think of the effects the past porn use may have on your relationship and you are wise to do so.  What might his brain be dealing with?  I don't want to get caught up too deeply in the weeds, but studies show that the earlier the use, the more traumatic its effects tend to be; some men need counseling to overcome these effects of early sexual trauma.  A 2011 study showed the frequency of viewing pornography was correlated with lower satisfaction level in both sex and relationships.  Various other studies have shown similar data; moreover, porn isn't just something on a screen, it causes real chemical activity in our brains (because the object we view is really in our mind).  A company called Covenant Eyes publishes lots of data you might find interesting; here’s a link to their 2018 report on pornography statistics:

What I hope I’ve given you with the above information is a clear-eyed look at how pornography could affect your life.  This does not indict your fiancé, it will only impact him negatively if he chooses to not look at it with a clear understanding of the power pornography has to kill the soul (and relationships).  Christian author Bill Perkins said: “If you think you can’t fall into sexual sin, then you’re godlier than David, stronger than Samson, and wiser than Solomon.”  Think of that, Solomon, Samson and David, slaves to their own sexuality; and none of those three had to deal with the ubiquitous porn on the internet.

Let me change course now, because if understood well and acted upon with diligence, the two of you can create a great life together.  The first piece of good news is that, usually, when the porn use is from the distant path, the effects do fade.  To be more specific, if the last porn (or more generally, sexual fantasy) is one or two years ago, the odds of relationship success go up significantly.

I know many men (including this writer) who have previously been enslaved by pornography and ubiquitous fantasy who are doing quite nicely in their relationships now that they have embraced porn/sex addiction recovery.  Likewise, I know many women who are proud of their men who have embraced this recovery.  These men and their relationships are likely better off than most other relationships who have never dealt with the topic of sexual lust in any proactive way.  To be clear, I use the word addiction in this paragraph not to frighten you, but as a way to view this scourge with clear eyes.

To get practical, here are some steps I ask you to take.

  1. In life, in your marriage, with your kids, on every electronic device (phone, watches, computers, tablets, etc.) in every Christian home, please be sure to properly install pornography (think pics, chat, videos, etc.) accountability and/or blocking software.  Covenant Eyes has been around for a while and has a good product, however, other programs such as that found at have been reported to me as good products for this purpose.
  2. Be willing to ask.  Here are three questions I urge you to ask whenever you choose (once every week or so).
    1.  When was the last time you viewed sexually inappropriate images?
    2.  When was the last time you masturbated?
    3.  When was the last time you fantasized about anyone sexually?
    If your fiancé responds non-defensively then he is probably a keeper.  Most men will embrace the idea that protecting you from this sin will promote your relationship.
  3. If this turns out to be more of an issue than you first suspected, but he is willing to protect his prospective family then he should:
    1) check in your diocese to see if there is a program which deals specifically with the issues of pornography and masturbation., or;
    2) there is a program called ‘fortify’ which is an online community complete with many videos, online mentoring and online accountability, or;
    3) check my web site;  I can help you assess and perhaps put you on the right path.

I said I would deal with ‘forgiveness and moving on’; I will now.  Your fiancé (without intended malice) dismissed your pain.  By telling you that he ‘has overcome it’, that usage was ‘every once in a while’, and that the last time was ‘about five months ago’, he totally dismissed your fear and your pain.  I realize that many, many people would have responded just as your fiancé did but that doesn’t change the fact that he ignored your pain while absolving himself.  This is a classic mistake made by men (and women) when a misdeed is discovered; basically, it is a holdover response from childhood.  That behavior says ‘Please forget about my failure’ while it completely ignores your injury.  I’m not saying that what he said is not true, I’m merely saying that his response was all about him and not about your pain.

You have been injured by him but because you love him, he is exactly the person who is most able to help you heal from your pain of infidelity.  Sue Johnson, with Kenneth  Sanderfer, have created a wonderful book entitled ‘Created for Connection’.  I recommend the book to you specifically for the chapter entitled ‘Conversation 5: Forgiving Injuries’.  Get yourself a copy of the book and read that chapter, preferably aloud, with your fiancé.  When your mind truly believes that he ‘gets’ the pain this has caused, you will feel free of the pain and you will come to believe that you have a partner who will protect you.  BTW: reading the rest of the book (hopefully together) will, additionally, be helpful to your relationship.

I hope this helps, please let me know if you have further questions.

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


Dear Ron,

How do you best balance personal life and work?
My future wife needs more attention and I want to give that to her but I work so much and want to provide but I don’t do a great job balancing.
I know I can do better.



Balance is the operative word, you must create and maintain balance.  A caution though, don't listen only to your own judgment to decide if things are properly balanced.  My big tip, ask your (future) wife; a bigger tip, listen to her.  If she says she's feeling neglected, she is right, she believes she is being neglected; don't make the mistake of thinking that she should believe what you believe.  If she feels neglected then she feels neglected, don't ignore that or resent her for having those feelings.  

Balance you must!  Being 'proactive' (or even responsive) is preferable to being reactive. I think you'll appreciate that, right?  When we feel cared about, there is room for less than perfect effort.  If hurt feelings have progressed too far then sometimes even better than perfect performance will still not seem to be enough.  Why?  Because we've broken the invisible but critical bond of attachment, which can only be repaired over time, with good effort and lots of TLC.  Think about it like this; when we are happy with our partner, even those little imperfections are OK (cute! right?) but if we aren't happy with them, those 'little' imperfections grate on us.  Here are some tips:

1) Make her important; don't miss her birthday, Christmas, Easter, your child's birth, your anniversary, or ... you get the idea.  If it's important to her, make it important to you.

2) Make her important; think about her throughout the day, send a text (multiple), call her, open her car door, plan dates make her special and she will make you special.

3) Make her important.

Every marriage, EVERY MARRIAGE, will fail in all or part unless we do the things DAILY which make it grow. There are just too many distractions in life which work to undermine your attachment; a partial list: cars, careers, children, catastrophic conversations, cyber-challenges, currency woes and many other challenges. I've got some thoughts on those daily activities to make it grow (click here) but first a few thoughts on how to think about it.

Many of us act and/or react when we are moved to do so. We do something nice for our partner when we are feeling good about them or we give them a hard time when we don't.  We get up in the morning and we pleasantly say hello when our partner has been good to us; we snap to show our displeasure when our partner has been 'bad' to us.  We go out of our way to do something nice when we want something or sometimes if our partner has shown displeasure.  We might call a system like that an 'emotionally-based' system; we essentially react to either our own or our partner's emotions.

What if, instead, we decided to base our marriage on principle?  I.e., what if we did something nice for our partner today because we want them to know that, every day, despite the pressures of the world, we want them to know they are special to us?  What if we did that even when our partner has not been on their best behavior?  When we do that, when we act on principle rather than emotion; when we check our bearings by asking our spouse and when we believe their experience we can find that balance is attainable.

Thanks Chris, God bless your marriage.

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

My fiancé and I are in the middle of marriage preparation online (as he is in the army/police officer and hardly never in the same town as me) and I just wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to fully prepare for marriage as a couple and be open to any/all advice we can get. 

I was curious if you had any advice for both of us on how to build better trust in our relationship, especially when I am feeling down on myself? I was previously in an unhealthy relationship with my son's father that took years to break the cycle of abuse. I tried to date off and on after that and was constantly finding the guys to be unfaithful. My fiancé finally won me over and here we are preparing for marriage.

My fiancé is such a genuine guy that I trust with my life, however I still have glimpses of doubt in my heart. He is not the type of guy to ever cheat and I believe that with every ounce of my body, so I do not know why those feelings come out occasionally. He is constantly wanting to show he loves me by his actions and words. Could this be past hurt rising to the surface that I never dealt with? Will I ever not have these doubts or is this a normal part of every relationship?
Thank you!!


I am happy that you are now with a guy who you believe (cognitively) will not harm you.  However, presuming he is that good guy and he has never given you any reason to doubt, your insecurity must mean that, emotionally, you are still vulnerable.  Let me try to help with that. 

Our minds are wonderfully formed to help us survive and thrive as we walk out our lives.  The rational/thinking part of our mind figures out how to best live given the current information you have.  Once we've done that, we essentially turn that functioning over to the "deep brain within".  BTW: If it didn't work that way, we'd be continually re-learning even the most basic functions.

So, here's the problem, even though your man, in the present has given you no reason to distrust, your past emotions are sometimes over-riding your present knowledge.  This is probably due to the traumatic way you have previously been hurt.  'Trauma' is the word we give to this condition; to describe memories that our minds can't currently comprehend.  The logical rules of yes/no, right/wrong and even true/untrue don't seem to apply.  Our mind is seemingly unable to reliably cope with these memories.  Often this leaves us to blame ourselves/others or to suffer shame or some other debilitating negative thoughts.

What can be done about traumatic memories?  Well, in some fashion you will need to process that trauma; to process in such a way that your mind will ultimately comprehend and be able to cope with the risk.  For example, in the case that you have raised, your mind will have to come to terms with the thought that betrayal is always a potential outcome of a close personal relationship.  Nonetheless, you can come to believe that focusing on the life you are living, with a man who loves you, is the reality which brings you great pleasure and satisfaction.

You must reprocess the old memory so that it becomes clear but non-threatening.  I like to think of this as 'smoothing out' a gnarly old memory making it smooth and 'adaptive' (helping us instead of hindering us).  To do this, there are several choices I'll present below; you can choose between them or you can use a couple of approaches simultaneously.  Whatever you choose, just be cautious; go slowly at first because you must be able to process the old memories safely.

1)  Intimate Person Support: Your fiancé can learn, sooner rather than later to 'take your pain'.   This is not something men do intuitively so you may have to work together to achieve the goal; let me describe what I mean.  Many women are good at listening to a family member or friend as they recount a moment of misery; you listen and validate, listen and validate and, when done, usually your friend will feel better (at least temporarily) because somebody listened.  When pain is deep, this method is often not effective with a friend.  However, your fiancée, because you trust him deeply, can be the support you need allowing him to 'take your pain' 

He probably won't be good at it initially but when he learns this technique well, you will both be blessed for life!  Check out 'Conversation 5' in part 2 of the book, "Created for Connection", by Sue Johnson for a description of this 'technique'.  While not a perfect description (because your fiancé is only a proxy for the betrayer), it will work because you have a deep emotional attachment with him.

2) Professional Counseling:  Seek out professional counseling for your previous pain of betrayal.  With a professional counselor, you should be able to deal with this pain and hopefully get to the reason(s) that it is hard to let it go.  Seek out someone who is skilled at working with trauma.  There are several trauma-oriented therapy styles, my favorite is EMDR; a qualified EMDR therapist should be able to help you with your pain of past betrayal.

3) Prayer, specifically Meditative Prayer:  As Christians we have a tradition of meditative prayer.  This may be the first... or the last method you try, but it won't hurt to accompany any other trauma processing technique with this practice of seeking God's understanding.  Try using these scriptures in meditation:  

Psalm 34:4  I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Proverbs 1:33  "but those who listen to me will be secure   and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Sophia, thanks again for your question; whatever you decide, don't assume you have to live with this insecurity.  You and your fiancé deserve better.  Let me know how it turns out.

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


We need some help answering a question regarding birth control used to treat a medical issue, not as contraception. If Birth Control is used for medical reasons and not contraception, should couples abstain from sex completely in marriage? Any clarity would be appreciated. 
Anya and Rob



Anya and Rob,

You've asked an important question, and while it may seem straightforward, there are intriguing possibilities. Let's break down the pieces; I'll include links to much needed answers for this thorny question. 

Along with your medical support team, only you can determine if, when and how often you should take a medicine which not only solves a medical challenge but which also impedes procreation.  The real question is, does that particular medicine uniquely protect you from harm?  If it does, you are on solid moral ground in taking it.  Here's a link which breaks down that logic in detail:

However, beyond contraception, most of the reasons for using birth control are for reasons relating to menstrual pain or cycle control.  For those reasons you ought to consider the work done by groups who understand the challenges of women, like you, who would rather not take a birth control drug.  Here's a link which to research and a group who may be able to provide you with better alternatives: .  The work by these enlightened medical servants attempts to first deal with the underlying reasons for your symptoms as opposed to masking them with drugs.  If you haven't already checked with these providers, you should probably do so; that can ultimately help protect you from the otherwise negative side effects of taking birth control drugs.

There are some other non-menstrual medical reasons (such as endrometriosis) which lead physicians to consider using contraceptive drugs to control those conditions but even in those cases, it is wise to consult with a medical provider who is completely familiar with the negative side effects of contraceptive drugs.  Please consult with one of the providers found in the link or go here to find more options:

Thanks for bringing this important question to us; hopefully other women will read this and then find better medical solutions for their painful conditions.

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



Good Morning Ron,  

I am enrolled in the online pre-cana course with my fiance, Paul. We have completed the first 2 assignments and upon receiving our answer key to assignment 2, I wrote an email to our instructors. They replied suggesting me to forward my email to you because you would be able to assist me/us better. Here is what I wrote:  

I have been praying a lot more often lately and have faith that this course (pre-cana) will help Paul and I with our struggles. I know that it is not easy, but Paul struggles with the love that you described in the answer key as: 
"Man cannot truly be himself until he has the companionship of a woman. Love is our first and main vocation because we are created in God’s image, God whose nature is love. God wants man to also understand that true love is self-giving and requires death to self." 

He has shared with me, often, that he has a fear of losing himself (his individuality) if he comes to love me as himself and gives himself fully into the love I have been asking for. I know that he loves me in his mind, but I struggle to feel that he truly loves me from the heart, in the way I quoted above. How can I encourage him? I have tried to talk to him about this and explain that he does NOT have to lose himself, and I want him to be himself because that is the man I fell in love with.

But, I also need him to show selflessness and giving and kindness to me on a daily basis, instead of reacting with anger, defensiveness, or self-serving actions/behaviors. I have encouraged him to pray more, which I think he is, but I'm not sure. I often feel afraid to talk to him about my needs or feelings for fear of his reaction or receiving anger. I am even nervous to share that I discussed this with you in an email because I worry he will be upset I shared his faults with 'strangers', although I don't see you as strangers, rather as guides and teachers working in our best interest. I am doing my very best to lead by 
example and we have begun to pray every night before our dinners together and he sees me pray at night before bed. I am struggling to forgive the anger I receive which causes me hurt and sadness. I know this impacts how affectionate I am and should be toward him. I do this because I feel so vulnerable being loving toward him then feel even more hurt when he raises his voice or becomes defensive or acts selfishly. I will certainly attest to being imperfect and working daily to improve upon my faults to become a better daughter of God, partner to Paul and mother to our son. This has been a struggle for many many years (we celebrate our 7th anniversary of dating in August) so at this point I have been patient as he works on his faults for so long and have seen such little progress (sometimes even back to square 1 again) that I'm not sure how much longer I can feel this way. I am reaching out to you in hopes of support and guidance on how to support him better in his journey because what I have tried sofar hasn't seemed to be effective. I appreciate your taking the time to read this email and look forward to your reply. Thank you very very much. Eleonor


Your question resonates with me; we, male and female, are presented in marriage with what is truly a mystery.  Let’s try to demystify it; I’ll do that in a way which is decidedly Christian but also scientific.

A mentor of mine, author Doug Weiss, points out that Adam was not himself complete, he could not procreate.  Eve was not complete, she could not by herself procreate.  As a mother, however, you know that the union of you and your fiancé has created a miracle (your baby); that is the Miracle of Marriage (and also, the name of a book by Doug).  The Bible states: “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. That is certainly a mystery.

Let’s add some science.  In our miracle union, that tiny little creation has no hope of survival unless it gets care from adults like you and Paul.  To optimally raise just one child, the couple must live together virtually 20 years after that child’s birth. Further, we can easily see that to properly raise that child (and those grandchildren), we really ought to stay monogamous for life.  That might seem to be a difficult task in 2017 when relationships often seem so disposable but ethologists have noted that we humans are designed to be monogamous.  We have been provided with an internal system of brain chemistry which helps us accomplish that goal.

Why then, with an internal chemical system which promotes lifelong monogamy and a spiritual system which certainly promotes monogamy does it seem so hard?  Why are we sometimes mean?  Why do we get defensive?  Why are we selfish? These are all great questions but one thing we know for sure; we come into relationship as broken beings, bringing our character flaws, our weaknesses, selfishness and even addictions.  What should we do about that?  Should we simply accept a dreary life of anger, defensiveness, hurt and sadness?  I surely hope not.

A little more science: you claim that you can’t even raise your issues of concern for fear that Paul might react in anger. John Gottman, PhD and pre-eminent relationship researcher predicts, based on his scientific observations, that couples who avoid confronting issues will last, on average 16.7 years.  If I understand your situation correctly, that means it could reach the breaking point in 9 years or less.  I’m not trying to be alarmist on the eve of your celebration but if you don’t change your dynamics, the odds aren’t with you.

If I’ve gotten your attention, I must point out that it is not hopeless Eleonor.  Consider this: I’ll bet that seven years ago, relationship problems were the least of your thoughts.  Did you see Paul as mean and defensive?  Did Paul worry about losing himself?  What has changed?  Probably a lot.  My experience tells me that relationships are usually neither won nor lost in a moment.  My experience tells me that EVERY relationship slowly dies when it is neglected AND that relationships only grow when they are nurtured; they don’t automatically grow.  I’ve talked a bit about some ways to nurture relationships in other posts on this forum. Here are some basic tips.

I realize that it will take both of you to start to turn the tide, maybe we can brainstorm how to get that started.  Why don’t we find a time to speak ?  This week is and end-of-the-month catchup week and is a good time for me if you can make it work in your schedule.  If you can do that, please reply to this email with some times when you are available.

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

Dear Ron,

Jake and I are civilly married and have been together 3 years. He is Catholic and I am not. We are going thru the marriage preparation and are looking forward to our ceremony in September. We have a very loving and intimate sex life and we're trying to educate ourselves on the teachings of the Catholic Church. I'm reading the book "Holy Sex" which you recommended in response to another couples question. I love the book, and what it says regarding the topic of oral sex and foreplay, but there are so many contradictions in other readings I've found online on what is or isn't moral. We want to do the right thing, but we're confused. We understand why the man must ejaculate during intercourse, but what about oral stimulation and climax for the woman? Our ultimate goal is always to climax together during intercourse, but that doesn't always happen, especially for me (and sometimes not at all). Anyway, your insight would be great on this subject!!

Hi Anna,  

Thanks for the question.
I imagine that many people won't ask this sort of question for fear of being 'immoderate' (or even immodest) but I would guess that many, if not most, couples have wondered with similar questions about sexual prohibitions.  

This response is not, of course, a definitive treatise from the Church but it does incorporate exhaustive research from the catechism, plus the major body of work from John Paul II, 129 ‘audiences’ which have become to be commonly discussed as the Theology of the Body. I am quite confident that nothing I am writing is contrary to church teachings.  Because we are talking about ‘sexual’ (and theological) and therefore highly emotional subject matter and because many will have opinions, I fully expect that someone might disagree.  I am giving you some background to help inform your own thoughts on the matter.

Loving stimulation is not at all prohibited by the Church, in fact, we could argue that it is virtually required that our lovemaking (within marriage) provides loving pleasure to our spouse, male and female.  The only real prohibitions on this point are:
     1) All sexual activity must be “open to life”, meaning that orgasm must be “genital to genital” (the wording of the catechism)
     2) There must be equal personal dignity.  Neither partner should ever be pressured to do something sexually which takes them far out of their comfort zone.
     3) The act must be inherently moral.  That means, each act must adhere to these tenets of morality.  
         a. The intention must be good;
         b. The moral object must be good; yikes what does that mean?  I could go on for a bit about this but I think the simplest answer is to think of it being objectively good
             vs. objectively evil, and;
         c. The circumstances must be moral which, in this case, basically means that acts within marriage (of course, the Church specifically means within a valid Catholic
) will generally meet this criteria. |

Geez, no wonder you have questions, how can you possibly know what that means even if you have a theology degree?  Here’s an important point however, nowhere in any document that I am aware of, does the Church prohibit mutual fondling of any part of our bodies…. SO you may be OK but let’s get a bit more practical.  Here are some considerations:

1) Open and honest communication is mandatory.  
Try this experiment: separately, list out those sexual activities which each of you consider desirable.  Now compare those lists.  If you and your spouse agree down the line, you have found what can be called your sexual garden.  If not, decide if the differences are soft prohibitions ("I don't think I want to") vs. hard prohibitions ("I definitely don't want to").  If you have soft prohibitions, then those activities aren't automatically excluded, the rule should be that the party stating their prohibition gets to initiate when they feel comfortable.  If you want to stretch yourselves, then include a time frame.  That is: "we will do that when I initiate, but I will do so at least once within a one month period".
One more point to make, we are all broken and we may even have trauma around these issues.  Thus, at any time in any particular sexual activity, either party may (hopefully gently) withdraw from that activity.

2) I don’t want to seem as if I'm lecturing on the point (though I certainly am), many times one partner may request (even virtually demand) a certain activity. They may lobby for it so strongly that their partner accedes to the wish even when she is uncomfortable.  When (if) that spouse who is experimenting with something either unfamiliar or which makes them uncomfortable temporarily withdraws from that activity, the requesting partner must resist all temptation to make the experimenter feel unloved.  That is, don't get angry, pout, withdraw, criticize, blame or shame.  I realize this is a topic for another post but sexual matters hit at the core of our being; thus they have great potential to harm and build walls between partners.  Loving sex is so important to our union that it is mandatory to keep it safe; if you can't do that on your own, seek some professional help.

3) Are you trying to please yourself, or your partner?  The former is discouraged while the latter is highly encouraged.  Being chaste in marriage implies that we are NOT taking BUT giving.  Loving sex is an opportunity to give selflessly.

4) Church theology teaches that our sex acts must always be 'open' to life.  This is typically understood to mean that men must only orgasm in a normal way within the female partner.  That would certainly mean that male oral sex must be limited to stimulation purposes and not designed to be for orgasm which is “not open to life”.  Female orgasm, OTOH, is NOT taken to mean simultaneous with the male orgasm but rather it is understood that it should occur while the two of you are actively engaged in your love making activities.

Some last points, not specifically about your question but certainly important to the topic of sexuality that I would make:

1) We must be lovingly sexual on a regular basis in order to optimize our marriages.

2) Sexual love and desire grows(!) in a healthy, monogamous marriage.  It doesn’t take gimmicks or tricks.  If we are fully engaged, body, mind and spirit during our sexual acts with our partner, our sexual desire for only our spouse will grow.

3) To fully experience # 2 (just previous), we must never do anything which will defeat our natural mechanisms.  This includes, fantasizing, flirting, pornography, sex outside of marriage AND any activity within marriage which demeans and/or dehumanizes our spouse.  If you do any of these things (and more, of course) we won’t experience the growth of our monogamous desire.

As long as we respect our natural limits, then start by reading the Song of Songs with your spouse and then enjoy!

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

Upon completing marriage prep my fiancé confessed to me that he had slept with another woman 3 times in the cores of a month. He apologized and has told me he has been completely honest with me about everything. I have forgiven him, but I am still hurting, I love him very much and I want to believe that he is going to change his secret lifestyle and will turn back to God, and I don't want to doubt Gods ability to save and change hearts. The only trouble is that we live in opposite sides of the country, he got stationed in NY while am living here in Washington. He says he wants to do anything to make this right and earn back my trust, but already I have to give him so much more trust than I want to, because of the distance ... do you have any advice? Esperanza

Your immediate question is 'do you have guidance or advice?'  I do, don't settle.  
I am not speaking about settling for your fiancé, I mean don't settle for a marriage of mediocrity... or worse.  Don't allow yourself to go through with your wedding until you are certain that you will have a chance for a long and successful marriage.  Your fiancé may be a good man, even a very good man, but somehow, he has allowed himself to be seduced by our culture. 

Life in 2017 is rife with so many distractions, sexual and otherwise.  It’s not that people are so much different than in past times but the culture is changing and its temptations can easily cause relationships to suffer enormously.  When I was a boy, my sexual titillation came in the form of real girls, lingerie catalogs (like Sears) and then, of course, Playboy; despite that relative lack of access, I managed to become a slave to my sexual fantasies.  Then, when the Internet showed up, it got worse; I found every possible way to act out sexually.  That's where we are: today it is barely possible to view a computer without some sexual content designed as click bait or actual pornography.  Early in life, if I wanted to meet girls, I had to go to a dance or to the club; today people hook up on Match, Tinder or worse. 

Maybe the year doesn't matter, whether 1970 or 2017, sexual impurity is a problem; my experience working with couples who have been married for many years is that you won't be happy in marriage unless each of you is sexually pure.  I didn't say that either of you must be virgins prior to marriage but in marriage (and in betrothal) you must be chaste.  Here's a definition of chastity which comes from Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine.

"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."

That's a high standard but I hope to convince you that your own long-term happiness depends heavily on this standard.  Count the number of times the word 'power(s)' is used in that short definition; that power comes from our own body's chemicals.  When we are sexually excited, and when we orgasm, a series of chemicals and hormones are released in our brains; go here: Chemical Soup if you want to read more about this. These chemicals are designed to bond us to continually make that bond stronger as time passes.  The important thing to know is this: for these chemicals to be effective, they must be used exclusively within the relationship.  This means no other partners are allowed, not in the flesh, not in masturbation, not in pornography, nor in any other form of sexual fantasy.  Every form of infidelity (remember, it is inside us, in our brain, not on the outside) weakens the bond.

Your original question seems to be, can I trust him if I'm on the other side of the country?  The issue is fidelity, not distance; many people living under the same roof blow up their marriages by being unfaithful.  If each of you will be committed to honesty and sexual purity you can make this relationship work.  In addition, my experience tells me that a man can do that if he will commit to working on his weaknesses; it also tells me that most don't stop these behaviors without engaging in some program of recovery.  Will he commit to being open with you about all forms of sexual impurity, including pornography, soft porn, masturbation, chat, talk, etc?  It is not your job to be his mom, to tell him what he can and cannot do but you do have the right to know if he has crossed any of these boundaries.  

There is much hope if your fiancé desires to have a great life with you but please exercise caution so that you get the relationship you need.  Since I'm sharing, check out my story, there is trial, hope and redemption: Ron's story.  I wish to give you hope mixed with a healthy bit of reality.

Esperanza, please follow-up if you need further assistance.

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

National Certified Counselor #267299

AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist 

Recovering Hearts Counseling

Dear Ron,

My boyfriend and I are in our late twenties, have been dating for almost a year, and are seriously considering becoming engaged. He has many wonderful qualities, including being reliable, a hard worker, very affectionate, and always willing to talk about anything. My concern is regarding some personality differences that have come up between us. I tend to be very sensitive and not deal with criticism well (a flaw of mine, I know). I can handle it better if I’ve asked for it or at least know it’s coming, but when it catches me off-guard I get very upset. My boyfriend, meanwhile, is very opinionated and loves to give his two cents… seemingly on EVERYTHING, and sometimes not very tactfully (a common scenario is when I’ve cooked dinner for him and the first thing out of his mouth is that it’s “okay” but that it needs x, y, and z). His comments are always in the name of being “helpful” and I do believe his intentions are good. I also realize that his comments probably would not be offensive to everyone- but they drive me crazy.

When he notices that I’m upset (which he’s actually pretty good at doing) he’ll try to talk things out with me, which typically results in me acknowledging the truth in what he said and him acknowledging that he could have said it more delicately or waited until I asked his opinion. But then the cycle repeats again… and again… and again… I worry that he’ll become less careful in choosing his words after the wedding promises are said, or that the criticism will eventually wear me down to the point that my self-esteem is in jeopardy. Can you succeed in marriage with a conflict like this if both parties are aware of it and keep communicating? Abbie



You have presented me with a real-life, very human, question.  I will ask God to provide to me a very real and human response.

You clearly seem to like your boyfriend, you present him in such a good light despite the fact that he seems to have difficulty in being empathetic.  Your situation reminds me of that old bromide, "we have two ears to listen and one mouth to speak".  Your boyfriend, while smart and observant (he particularly notices your flaws), does not appear to have the wisdom to know how to speak appropriately to you.

Does your boyfriend know that you are probably at least as competent as he and that sometimes you just do things differently?  You describe what I call the 'know-it-all syndrome' which may be rooted in insecurity.  The problem with being a 'know-it-all' is that we often don't know how to be kind to others.  Moreover, we probably don't even know when we don't 'know-it-all' and that we're just being rude.  You seem to indicate that your boyfriend falls into this category; his behavior does not seem to you to be incidental.  In your own words, it has even reached the point where you worry if even your own "self-esteem is in jeopardy"

Which then leads me to these questions Abbie:

1) Why have you selected someone who is damaging to your self-esteem, and;

2) Presuming that he has all the great compensating qualities you state, why have you not yet been able to satisfactorily address this with him directly?  
You may be bringing a bit of your own self-esteem deficit into the relationship.  If you are not able to address your needs now with your boyfriend, your marriage will likely confirm what you already seem to expect.  Ironically (but thankfully), it is up to you to deal with your boyfriend's traits.

Being successfully married means that you must be able to address each issue with your partner; now would be a great time to start that process.  I did not say that you cannot have differences, you naturally will.  Nor should you expect to agree on every issue or every personality trait, even after it has been discussed.  Marriage researcher John Gottman has determined that 69% of all marital issues will be persistent, nonetheless we must come to some 'comfortable' understanding of what each partner can accept.  

What does this mean?  You are not likely to change your boyfriend's personality, thus you must either learn to accept what you are experiencing or you must learn to address directly the behavior traits which are unacceptable.  Then, if he becomes considerate of your needs, you win.  OTOH, if he cannot show you the change you need, you'll have to make the hard choice of which life you'd like to lead.  BTW: If he cannot make these changes in the limerence phase of your relationship, it is unlikely those traits will change at a later date.

Thanks again for your question Abbie; I invite you to inquire if there is any part which needs clarification or if you have follow-up questions.

PS: Please visit this page and check tip #11 to use when you address your concern.

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

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?


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

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?



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

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! 





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

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, 




‘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

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.




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

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?




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 

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?




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

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


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

"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


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

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

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

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

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

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