Part Three: Dickens’ David Copperfield on the Family: Birth Children Feeling Lost in Stepfamilies

Part Three: Dickens’ David Copperfield on the Family: Birth Children Feeling Lost in Stepfamilies

They paint this rosy picture of finding the man or wife of their dreams, someone THIS TIME who will actually love them.  I deserve to be happy.  I’m not going to settle.  I don’t want to send a message to my children that it’s Okay to live like this.

Then, when I challenge this fantasy, these clients get mad at me.  “It won’t happen to me,” they say.

There’s a reason almost everyone in jail is from a stepfamily.  There’s a reason almost every child who drops out of school or joins a gang or gets pregnant in high school or gets addicted to drugs and alcohol or sexually abused is from a stepfamily or child of divorce.

And you say, my kids are good kids.  They will be fine.

That’s easy for you to say.  You are the one WANTING the divorce.

And then they tell me they would only pick someone who loved their children just as much as they do!

Right.  Tell me how you are going to do that, you who are smarting from your last marriage and more than likely more broke than you’ve ever been and desperate for some help with these kids and feeling like a failure from your first marriage and struggling with NOT hating your Ex and nursing your wounds and trying to make sense of your world torn asunder and your kids are freaking out because they don’t have a home any more (back and forth between mom and dad means you don’t have a home and after awhile it drives you crazy) and your bed, your bed, is soooo empty.  The loneliness:  Night after night.

And you’re going to make a wise choice THIS time.  THIS time it’s going to work?  When you are reeling from all this despair?  You’ll know this time what you want?  You are wiser now?  Wiser?  Really?  Or just hurting?  Hurting people usually don’t make wise choices.

This is why second marriages breakup quicker and more often than first marriages and third marriages even quicker and more often than second marriages and on and on it goes.

Maybe, before you divorce and remarry, you should look at this whole mess from the eyes of a child.  How does it look through a child’s eyes to see some other man or woman touch mommy or daddy?  How does it feel to have a total stranger come into OUR home and take over?  If you are a stepparent now it would also be good for you to look at these issues through the eyes of your stepson or stepdaughter.  It might give you some compassion for him or her.

Before you lie to yourself and tell yourself the kids will be fine, take a look at how insightful Charles Dickens is looking at a stepfamily through the eyes of a little grade school boy.  In David Copperfield, Dickens tells the story of a stepson, Copperfield, who is sent away to boarding school by his stepfather (We are convinced as readers his loving mother would have never sent him away to school if she hadn’t remarried.  Sending Copperfield away was the evil stepfather’s doing.) and what it feels like to Copperfield coming “home” for the first time after being away at school several months.

Dickens captures the insight that Copperfield’s home is NO LONGER HIS HOME!  Yes, the comforting things are there, his mother, his mother’s maid, Peggoty, all the knickknacks that hold fond memories, but it is as if it all reminds him of a dream world that can never come back.  He is LOST in his own home.  It’s so painful he wants to leave again, to just be gone and to sit with his school buddy, Steerforth:

“Ah, what a strange feeling it was to be going home when it was not home, and to find that every object I looked at, reminded me of the happy old home, which was like a dream I could never dream again!  The days when my mother and I and Peggotty were all in all to one another, and there was no one to come between us, rose up before me so sorrowfully on the road, that I am sure I was glad to be there – not sure but that I would rather have remained away and forgotten it in Steerforth’s company.”*

Do you see the inner conflict he’s having?  He hasn’t seen his mother or his dear Peggotty in months and he misses them so much, but because his new stepfather has absolutely changed his old home forever he DOESN’T EVEN WANT TO GO HOME!

And why would he?  His stepfather is mean and has changed the demeanor of his home from one of tenderness and love and endearment to one of judgment, terror, fear and coldness.

Now look:  There are literally millions of stepfamilies, stepfathers and stepmothers that have figured out how to be loving to each other and the new stepparent fits right in and the child is thrilled to have a new “father” or “mother” figure.   But this is NO GUARANTEE.  Just because you love somebody doesn’t mean your new lover will love your child or that your child will love your new lover.  If you have more than one child you are assuming an awful lot that ALL of your children will love the new person you bring home and vice versa.

It is clear from Dickens’ story that David Copperfield’s mother loved him very much.  Nevertheless, she didn’t choose her next husband wisely and it was the undoing of her family and ultimately herself (it’s a sad story!).  Choosing her next spouse led to the biggest tragedy of her life.  David Copperfield’s life was dramatically changed as well and it takes him years to get his bearings.  Dickens is correct to show the down side of stepfamilies.  Love does not conquer all.

When Copperfield arrives home from his boarding school for the first time he’s fortunate that his stepfather and his stepfather’s sister (She came to live with them also and had a profound and sinister hatred of Copperfield.) are gone when he arrives home and he meets his mother and Peggoty along with his new half-brother who was born in his absence.  They spend the day together in bliss, reconnecting.  It was more than Copperfield could have hoped.  It ends way too shortly.

And then his stepfather and his step aunt arrive home and everything changes.  As they come home his mother tells him to go to bed so as not to upset his new family members for being up too late.  As he climbs the stairs to his old bedroom he thinks:

“It appeared to my childish fancy, as I ascended to the bedroom where I had been imprisoned, that they brought a cold blast of air into the house which blew away the old familiar feeling like a feather.”*

With all of them together he no longer feels like this is his home.  He feels distant from his mother, his maid (who remained one of his fondest friends throughout the book) and, even, himself.  He feels nothing but disdain from these new, uninvited (in his view) intruders (NOTE: His stepfather’s name was Murdstone, Dickens’ play on the words murder and heart of stone.  Murstone’s coldness eventually kills Copperfield’s mother.):

“In short, I was not a favorite with Miss Murdstone (his stepfather’s sister).  In short, I was not a favorite there with anybody, not even with myself; for those who did like me could not show it, and those who did not, showed it so plainly that I had a sensitive consciousness of always appearing constrained, boorish, and dull.

I felt that I made them as uncomfortable as they made me.  If I came into the room where they were, and there were talking together and my mother seemed cheerful, an anxious cloud would steal over her face from the moment of my entrance.  If Mr. Murdstone were in his best humor, I checked him.  If Miss Murdstone were in her worst, I intensified it.  I had perception enough to know that my mother was the victim always; that she was afraid to speak to me or be kind to me, lest she should give them some offence by her manner of doing so, and receive a lecture afterwards; that she was not only ceaselessly afraid of her own offending, but of my offending, and uneasily watched their looks if I only moved.  Therefore I resolved to keep myself as much out of their way as I could; and many a wintry hour did I hear the church clock strike, when I was sitting in my cheerless bedroom, wrapped in my little great-coat, poring over a book.*

Copperfield’s attempt to deal with his despair by holing up in his room so as not to have to deal with the constant discomfort is actually a healthy thing.  Reading would be a good pastime and because of his love for books he eventually becomes a famous writer (Copperfield’s life broadly follows Dickens’ own life, although Dickens did NOT grow up in a stepfamily, which makes his insight into the negative side of stepfamily dynamics all the more amazing.).  His stepfather, as is often the case, views Copperfield’s tendency to spend his time alone in his room as an insult and sees it as selfish behavior that must be disciplined.  He accuses Copperfield of being surly which is interpreted as being disrespectful and he will NOT be disrespected!

If you knew how often I have heard stepparents tell me they will NOT be disrespected by their evil stepchildren, you would be shocked.  Stepparents often feel as if their spouses’ birth children run wild without any discipline and they are quite often right about that.  Birth parents, especially after a divorce, have a difficult time disciplining their children because their children are hurting so badly already from the effects of the divorce.  Birth parents bear some guilt about this.  They also want their children to like them more than the other birth parent!  They worry if their children don’t like them they won’t want to stay and would rather be with the other birthparent.  New stepparents can see this pattern and confront it immediately.  Unfortunately, though the stepparent is correct the children need discipline, they are too often harsh and unloving in their approach.

The harshness of stepparents is the most common complaint of stepchildren that I hear in my office.  It would not be uncommon for a stepchild to escape all this judgment and condemnation in his or her bedroom.  Copperfield’s stepfather interprets Copperfield’s escaping to his bedroom as rebellion and being intentionally in a bad mood to negatively change the demeanor of the home.  The stepfather believes his stepson is the causing the contrary tone!  Dickens makes it very clear, that at least from the eyes of a child, he and mom and the maid were fine for years before this evil stepfather came on the scene.  No doubt the stepfather thought things were fine at home until Copperfield came home for the holidays.

However, Copperfield is genuinely depressed and he’s trying to make the best of a bad situation so he goes to his bedroom and read.   His stepfather interprets Copperfield’s mood as rebellion instead and he’s disciplined accordingly.  His mother does nothing to intervene.  She doesn’t dare.

Mr. Murstone tells David he can no longer hide himself in his bedroom and he has to sit with all of them in the main room.  And he is NOT to look “sullen.”

“’I will have a respectful, prompt, and ready bearing towards myself,’ he continued, ‘and towards Jane Murdstone, and towards your mother.  I will not have this room shunned as if it were infected, at the pleasure of a child.  Sit down.’

He ordered me like a dog, and I obeyed like a dog.*

If you are a stepparent, you have a big job ahead of you.  Your hardest job will be to give your stepchildren some slack.  The temptation will be to write them off and to complain to your wife or husband how terrible your wife or husband’s children are.  A good rule of thumb is not to come between blood.  To the extent you criticize your spouse’s blood children is the extent that you push your spouse away.

Usually the solution to this problem is to encourage the birthparent to be the one who is firm with the birth child and encourage the stepparent to concentrate on befriending the birth child.  There are also jealousies going on here that will need to be continually worked on, namely, that the relationship of the birth child to the birth parent precedes the relationship of the stepparent to the birth parent.  This is ultimately what is behind most animosity of stepparents for birth children.

The animosity of birth children to their stepparents is usually because after the arrival of the stepparent, the birthparent no longer has as much time and energy for the birth children and a birth child can sense immediately the withdrawal of the attention from the birth parent.  The birth parent is largely unaware of this because the birth parent loves the birth child the same.  Nevertheless, a birth child is totally aware that he or she was just demoted by the new stepparent because the stepparent has literally taken time away of the birthparent with the birth child.

These natural jealousies of both the birth child and the stepparent for the birth mother and spouse are often not handled wisely and create many of the problems common in stepfamilies.  Knowing and understanding them is critical in helping to ease animosities and is one of the tasks in therapy around stepfamily issues.

I’m guessing most second marriages that break up (when children are involved) do so because the birth parent feels the stepparent does NOT love the birthparent’s children.  The birthparent thinks: if you don’t love my children, you must not love me.  That’s a common feeling and, sadly for many, this particular feeling is not far from the truth.

The other reason second marriages with children break up is just the opposite feeling on the part of the stepparent.  The  stepparent complains the birth parent lets the birth child get away with murder and the stepparent says he or she will not participate in that any longer.  Inaction on the part of the birthparent, in this case, could drive the stepparent away.

Stepfamilies are dicey!  We work through all these crazy dynamics in therapy, seeking to take the hurt feelings out of it so people can make better choices instead of letting jealousies rule the day.  It’s possible to work out, but a little wisdom along the way sure helps!


*quotes from Chapter 8 of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, written 1849-1850.  Kindle edition.

Part Three: Dickens’ David Copperfield on the Family: Birth Children Feeling Lost in Stepfamilies

In Marriage: Secrets = Lies; In Cohabitation: Secrets = Well, Ahh….

Your mom might care, but it’s your life and if you want to drink yourself silly or stay out all hours of the night or play video games til your fingers are sore or spend all your money and the money from next year and the decade after that on purses or 4-wheelers, or buy lotto tickets or sleep all hours of the day or live in a trash heap, nobody gives a crap.

If you are married a secret equals a lie.  What?  That’s right.  There is no room for a secret in marriage.  Period.  Why’s that?  When you get married (you know, a wedding where you publically declare your fidelity to each other til death us do part and you tell that to God, to the Church, to the State, to your relatives, to your friends, to the dog (a dog snuck in the church when Mary Sue and I got married 36 years ago and slept under a pew), to each other and to your very self and later when you literally become one sexually, at that moment God unites you into a new family, a new social organism with a skin around the both of you called a boundary and this boundary is primarily a boundary of protection and He instills in you the Mother Bear Instinct, whereby you protect each other because you are both:


That’s right.  You might not agree on everything, but you let each other know what’s going on, where you are, what you are spending or thinking of spending, how work went, how you are feeling about your life, your future, your dreams, worries, and  concerns.





It’s a little worrisome for some at first, because, you know, these newly married folk may have lived single-y for a decade or more and they are used to doing whatever whenever and not answering to anybody so marriage might seem a tad cumbersome.  It might take a while to get used to.  It can be irritating to hear one’s spouse say, “What’s the deal with that?”  Over time, you learn how to say these things, how to bring them up, what to bring up, what to let slide, how to express it so  your husband or wife can actually hear it.  It would be good to figure that out.  It takes about 15 years.  Minimum.  Some people need help figuring that out, so they come see me and we talk about how to actually be a husband and a wife.  A lot of people have no idea.

The average divorce is at 7.2 years, so most people never even ever discover the major reason they got married, which was to help them both grow up.  It takes a little humility to be married.

Humility would be good.  You don’t know everything.  Some of your habits are bad, even destructive, and if you keep doing them you are literally going to die, get fired, get arrested or eventually live under a bridge (“The rats were particularly friendly today.”).

Your husband or wife has an opinion about you systematically destroying yourself so more than likely your spouse might say something about it here and there and if you are wife or a husband, over time, the seeds your spouse planted will bear fruit and you will slowly overcome these little “foxes” (as the Song of Song calls them) and become a better person and couple.


If you have enough humility to realize you don’t know everything.  If you have the finesse to convey your insights to your spouse without a club.

Those are two big IFS.

Since nobody wants to be told what to do (when they are 13) and nobody has any people skills (when they are 13), most people who divorce do so at the emotional maturity of a 13-year old and since divorce is so traumatic they stay at this same emotional level the rest of their lives.

If you aren’t open to some input in your first marriage you more than likely won’t be open to input on your second (or third, etc.)

If you don’t know how to convey your opinion without a little suger in your first marriage you more than likely won’t have clue in your second.

Divorce does NOT enhance either of these maturing, life-enhancing skills.  If anything it makes a person more self-absorbed and self-protective and angry and offputting and defensive and guarded and suspicious because who wants to be hurt again?

My prayer for you, if you divorced or your spouse divorced you, is that you will bow before the Father and pray He will take away your bitterness of heart and that he would instill in you a forgiving and humble spirit, so that someday you may actually be able to put aside childish things.

That would be a good thing.

If you think about it, people who divorce at 7.2 years (the average marriage length at divorce) are newlyweds, if you consider you are supposed to be married to that one person the rest of your life.

Let’s see: 7.2 divided by 62 years (how long my mom and dad are currently married and still counting) equals: 11.6 percent.

I am totally convinced that the vast majority (all?) of folk who divorce do so without ever discovering the art of being a husband or wife and are basically divorcing their roommate.  They divorce still not knowing how to be a husband or a wife so then they do the roommate thing all over again in the next marriage or they tire of marriage altogether (so they think), see it as a burden and a snare, and live serially with a number of other would be partners, roommates with benefits, if you know what I mean.

NOT friends with benefits.  There’s no way you can be friends with someone you are sexual with if they are not your husband or wife.  This so-called “partner” (what should this person be called?) will slowly become a stench and you will eventually end up hating him, and the hatred with which you hate him will be stronger than the love with which you loved him, to quote a verse in the Bible that tells a similar story from 3000 years ago, I kid you not.  I’m not making this stuff up.

Which brings us to secrets in cohabiting.  If there are no secrets if you are single and therefore no lies, because you have no one to lie to and if in marriage if your secrets equal a lie, because you both depend upon each other for your present, your future and your well being, than in cohabiting secrets equal?  What?

I’ll tell you how a secret feels in cohabiting:  It feels like a lie.  But the problem is this other person is not your husband or wife and you have no claim upon her and she has no claim upon you.  Technically you are both single.  Even though you are living with each other, bought a house together, even had a kid or two together, if you are not married, you are at most business partners.

Which is the same relationship divorced people have. Their relationship is strictly business.  In cohabiting your relationship is strictly business.  You both pay half of the rent, right?  That’s a business relationship.  Roommates.

I had a roommate from college.  I never told him where I was going, who I was with, what I was thinking, fearing, worried or concerned about.  Neither did he.  He could care less.  Roommates.  And with roommates, that’s fine.

But with cohabitation how can you ever be more than roommates or a business relationship?  Sex just makes you in bondage to each other.  It’s, ahhh, immoral, for one thing.  But you tell each other it’s fine and wipe your mouths and tell yourselves you’ve done nothing wrong.  You can tell yourself whatever you want.  It means nothing.  You aren’t married.  No one made a public pronouncement you are both in.  You are both using each other.  Love does not seek it’s own and that’s all both of you do: seek your own.  Sex outside of marriage is not only immoral, it’s an act of selfishness and self-promotion and soon the whole business will grow wearisome and after a while you will grow tired of each other, kids or no kids, and you will break up and go your separate ways because he was so this or that or she was so this or that and everyone will understand and you will do it again because you are lonely and the next person will have an opinion one day and you will scoff at him, too, because you ain’t gonna take no crap.  You ain’t gonna settle.  You don’t want no one telling you what to do.  That’s why you never married in the first place, right?

Cohabiting people don’t make very good husbands and wives because it takes a little humility and honesty and integrity to be a wife or a husband and these two cohabiting people are just getting what both of them want from each other right now for nothing and screw integrity (no pun intended), I can do what I want, propriety be damned.  And now all of a sudden you marry and now all of a sudden you are going to be humble enough to tell the truth and be honest and make right decisions going forward?  How is your new spouse that you just sucked the life out of while you were living together without marriage supposed to ever trust you in that?

And now your cohabiting person (what do you call this person?  Roommate?  Potential wife or husband? Likely engagee?  Girlfriend or boyfriend would be insulting.  You just had a kid with this person.  The father of my child?  The body on the other side of the bed?) tells you a lie and you freak and he says to you, “You are not my wife.  I can do what I want.  It’s none of your business,” and other insulting things and you realize you have NO SAY.  She’s not your wife, buddy.  Your opinion ain’t worth squat.

So in cohabiting: secrets =????

No wonder cohabiting folk break up in spades.  Romantic feelings of love, so strong in the beginning, quickly wane without the structure of marriage to protect it and nurture it.

One time I asked a young couple who lived together what prevented them from getting married.  They both laughed and slapped their knees while both of them said in near unison:

“Oh, we’re not mature enough to do that.”

Ain’t that the truth.

How To Make Change Last For Good

How To Make Change Last For Good

Ready to be a better husband; ready to be a better wife; ready to be a better person. You feel great, confident, and hopeful for the future. Nothing is going to get in your way now. Right?

Not likely.

Here’s the problem.

These positive emotions will soon dissipate, the motivation will fade, sluggishness will want to settle in again, and before you know it, you are right back in the darkness you came from. So, what will you do? You will buy another book, find a different blog site, and listen to a different therapist. Perhaps they will have the answer?  And on and on this pattern will go.

Is there any hope? Yes. The hope lies in you slowing down and understanding how personal growth and how a good marriage develops. Your character and your marriage are not going to change overnight, for character and a good marriage is like a good ale, it needs time to brew.

So, here is the first thing you need to understand about personal and marital growth: Expect down times soon and have a plan to combat it.

I’ve seen and experienced this a hundred times.  Why do the majority of people fail in fulfilling their New Year resolutions? They start off so gung ho and within a week or a month they have failed. The answer is many of them did not push past the first down time. They get slothful and make excuses why they can’t fulfill their resolutions: ‘I’ve been good, so I desire this’ is the line often heard or said.  But if you expect down time and have a plan to combat it, then you are more likely to push past it and on your way to a more fulfilling life and marriage.

This notion of ‘having a plan’ is key to winning in your personal and marriage life. Basically, the idea is all change is easy when you’re motivated and energized; it is difficult every other time. Since you will never see lasting changes in your personal life and your marriage until the changes you want to make are good and settled, it is an imperative you push past these downward times.  This is where the plan comes into play, for the plan will give you the way and the incentives to keep moving forward.

Here is an example to explain what the plan is and how it is used:

I really desired to become a more disciplined man. I tired and tried with all my heart to wake up and 6 AM with no avail. I would be able to do it for a few days, but on those mornings I was supper tired, nothing could get me out of bed, or so I thought. Dedicated to change and in a time of desperation, I called a dear friend of mine up and said, ‘If I don’t wake up 4 days of the week at 6 AM, then I owe you $50.’

Guess what, it worked. The days would come when I was supper tired, but the idea of paying $50 for an few more hours of sleep seemed crazy to me, so I got up.

One week went by and then another. Weeks turned in to a months. I was so excited that I started coming up with new challenges for myself. I’ve never been able to workout before, so I called up my friend and said, ‘If I don’t work out 3 days of the week, then I owe you $50.’ Guess what, I’ve worked out more in my life. I don’t always want to, but I have a plan for those days. I’ve even combined the two together, so when I wake up, I go and work out. To birds with one stone kind of thing.

Now you don’t have to do what I did, but you need a plan that has a good incentive built into it. If you find yourself breaking your plan too much, then up the anti a bit.

The second thing you need to understand about personal and marital growth is: in those down times, you need to get even more radical. That’s right. The best way to defeat a lacking motivation is by facing it head on. Don’t sit and wait for the ‘feelings’ to go way (they normally don’t). Change the feelings by doing the opposite of what those feelings are telling you to do. Remember, you want a better life and marriage. This is going to take time and effort. Now is not the time for timidity. Take courage and push yourself.

Here is what I mean. I resolved the other week to be more industrious. This means I did not want to waste any time in useless tasks that neither benefits my family, neighbor, or myself. (Now don’t miss understand me, one of those tasks is to take a day of rest and enjoy a pint with a friend. So I am not trying to become a work alcoholic).  Being a rather slothful man, I knew this was going to be tough.

The day came when I was not motivated at all. Mindlessly suffering the Internet sounded lovely, but I remember my resolution. I jumped out of my chair and ran down into the garage and began to organize my toolbox. This was hard (not physically but psychologically) and not fun at all, but I pushed myself to finish it. Still feeling the laziness inside me, I set myself on a new task, I started organizing and cleaning the whole garage. The next thing I know the whole thing was clean, organized, and my wife is beaming with delight. Feeling confident and now motivated, I immediately went upstairs and started cleaning the kitchen and putting the laundry away. My wife said, ‘Wow, what has gotten into you,’ to which I replied, ‘I don’t want to suck anymore.’ She was quite pleased.

That is how you do it.

The third thing you need to understand about personal and marital growth is: slow and steady wins the race. Remember the story of The Tortoise and the Hare?  The basic moral of the story is keep chugging alone no matter how slow it seems you are going. You might see others improve really fast, but don’t be deceived they might be the hare. In your marriage, allow time for each of you to grow.

My wife has waited many years for me to finally be motivated to be a ‘clean gentlemen.’ I have never liked showers, I grow a beard because I hate shaving, and I have always dressed like a baboon. But slowly, over time, my own moral principles convicted me that I need to be a proper gentleman and care about how I smell, look, and appear to her. I have always known what she likes, but I have always struggled to put that into practice. But slowly over time, the character trait of ‘cleanliness’ brewed in my soul.

I first began to not wear such baggy cloths, and then I left behind my ‘skater shoes’ and started wearing dress shoes. I slowly started replacing old T-shirts with collared shirts and picked up few nice sweaters. Now I am trying to integrate dress pants, ties, and sports jackets into my daily dressing for fun and as money presents itself, which is not often. Furthermore, my wife (not to mention my mother) is happy to see that I am keeping up with daily hygiene.

Slowly I changed, but it took many years. My wife was patient though. Not wanting a hare experience, she would rather me slowly change for good, then change for a month.

In the end, you might not need another book or read another blog. What you need is to keep pushing forward. I could give many more suggestions on how to keep moving forward, but this will suffice for now. Make a plan, push past those down times by getting radical, and always remember slow and steady will win the race.

Part Three: Dickens’ David Copperfield on the Family: Birth Children Feeling Lost in Stepfamilies

Herman Cain and the Definition of An Affair

But when Mr. Cain admits that he gave Ginger White money for a long time, and even recently,

“because she was out of work, had trouble paying her bills and I had known her as a friend…. I’m a soft-hearted person when it comes to that stuff. I have helped members of my church. I have helped members of my family.

“And I know a lot of other people who had done the same thing. She was asking me to help her, and sometimes, quite frankly, it was desperation,” Cain said….

And, he acknowledged, “My wife did not know about it, and that was the revelation. My wife found out about it when she went public with it.”

Not only didn’t his wife not know about the financial assistance, he said, but she also “did not know we were friends until she (White) came out with this story.

“My wife now knows,” Cain said. “My wife and I have talked about it and I have explained it to her. My wife understands that I’m a soft-hearted giving person.”

He said his wife “is comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”

then I’ve got to write something.  He’s laid out the nature of an affair for all the world to see.

Since I deal with affairs for a living and one of the big issues is helping the couple get on the same page regarding what is and is NOT an affair so we can deal with it, these statements by Mr. Cain can help us clear the air.

There’s a widespread belief that you only have an affair if you’ve had intercourse with someone.  That’s a bunch of baloney.  Any seventh grader can tell you you can do a lot more things sexually than just intercourse and you can do a lot more things in an affair then just not have sex.

Over the years I’ve dealt with hundreds of trust issues around people outside the marriage from clandestine meetings with coworkers and texting and emails and “chatting”  and calls about issues other than work on the one hand and repeated sexual encounters with people of the opposite sex over a long period of time: emotional involvement on one end and sexual involvement on the other.   The spouses of these folk on both ends of the spectrum sound the same when they describe how they are taking their spouses’ actions.  They use the same words.  They use the same inflection.  They convey the same despair.  How could this possibly be?

The reason?  They were having the same experience.  They were just as upset when their spouses were involved with others emotionally as they were if they were involved sexually.  In fact, most people would tell me it hurts them more if their spouses were involved emotionally than sexually  because the plumbing works.  You can do it with anyone.  But in order to be emotionally involved with someone you have to LIKE them!  You have to give them your HEART.

That’s led to my definition of an affair:

Any time you meet someone else’s needs when you should meeting your spouse’s needs or any time someone else (or in the case of pornography, something else) is meeting your needs, when your spouse should be the only one meeting those needs, that would be an affair.

Obviously this includes sexuality.  The only person meeting your spouse’s sexual needs is you and the only one meeting your sexual needs is your husband or wife.

But this also includes affection.

And emotional needs.

Needs for companionship.

Needs for fun.

Needs for friendship.

Needs for someone to open up to, to talk to, to share.

Needs for recreation, fitness.

Needs for tenderness, compassion, a listening ear, banter, acceptance.

And yes, financial needs.

NO.  We’re not going to go exercise with someone of the opposite sex at work during our lunch hour. Recreation and exercise are major doorways to sexual affairs.  It connects the couple (yes, they are acting like a couple) in their experience, when they should be having those experiences with their spouses.

NO.  We’re not going to be texting co-workers about personal stuff or even texting and asking if they are having a good day.  Texting is doorway to an affair.  It is intensely intimate and private and intimate and private things lead to places that play with our heart stings and the hearts of those on the receiving end.

NO.  We’re not going to call our “friend” and talk about our day and check up and tell each other our concerns and worries.  You should be doing that with your spouse.  A good rule of thumb is to NEVER talk about your personal concerns with others of the opposite sex except your spouse.

NO.  We’re not going to eat lunch alone on a regular basis with an opposite sex coworker.  That’s too intimate and sends the wrong message to your spouse (most important), your co-worker you are having lunch with (if you do this they are probably nurturing a secret crush on you and/or you on them) and your other co-workers (tongues will wag).  Everyone is going to doubt your integrity on that deal and it’ll just bite you in the butt.

NO.  We’re ESPECIALLY NOT going to give a needy person of the opposite sex money!  Crap.  Are you kidding me?  It’s NOT our job to meet someone else’s  financial needs.  As a couple OUR money is OUR money and WE decide who to GIVE to.  This is a subject for discussion and prayer.  This isn’t anything either of us does alone.  Too much is at stake.

NO.  If he is having financial problems and you feel compelled to help him, you need to bring your spouse on board and the two of you discuss how you want to handle the situation.  Maybe give to him anonymously through your church or other non-profit group?  If you give her the money directly, especially if it is more than once, you create a very questionable and dependent relationship.

Finances are particularly dicey.  If Mr. Cain gives money to this gal, it creates an unbalanced relationship.  The key to long-term relationships is keeping them relatively balanced, with a fair give and take.  You borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower.  He borrows your ladder.  If he never borrows your ladder, the relationship is unbalanced and won’t work and every time you want to borrow his mower, he’s going to resent you, unless you give him a nice Christmas present or something to balance it out again.  If Mr. Cain gives Ginger White money, what is she going to give him back?  Over and over he gives her money and she doesn’t give anything back?

That’s just weird.

And frankly unbelievable.

Really, really unbelievable.

And if it’s true it’s a decided lack of good judgment on both their parts.

And he didn’t tell his wife?

I can tell you that I’ve had people in therapy for a lot less than this and I would guess that anyone who found out that their spouse had a “secret” friendship for YEARS and on top of that gave this person money for YEARS and never told his spouse about it, that when the spouse found out about it, she would feel a tremendous amount of violation of trust on that deal and would be screaming mad and if she didn’t I’d be trying to goad her self-respect into gear.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:  As married people we don’t have secrets from each other.  Period.  No secret activities.  No secret friends.  No secret spending of money.  Married people don’t have secrets unless they want to be unhappily or formerly married.

The whole advantage of being married is checking in with each other about whatever and getting some feedback so that you don’t do really stupid stuff, like give money repeatedly and secretly to a needy woman.  If he would have told his wife of this needy woman years ago his wife would have put a stop to it and Mr. Cain might still be a presidential candidate.  Really.  Accountability works, folks.  Secrets and marriage don’t mix.

Here’s how I think of it: If you are single you can do whatever you want.  You probably shouldn’t, but no one cares.

If you are married, somebody cares.  So you touch base.

If you have a secret relationship with somebody and you also give this person money over a long period of time and you DON’T tell your spouse, then what you are telling your spouse whether your spouse finds out or not is that you don’t need your spouse in your life and you can do what you want and you are basically living a single life.  If your spouse doesn’t figure this out and she is “comfortable with the explanation that I told her” then somebody isn’t telling somebody the truth or somebody isn’t dealing with reality and we’re living in fantasy land and we aren’t calling a spade a spade.

I don’t believe for a minute Mr. Cain’s wife is “comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”  The normal reaction in a situation like that is extreme violation, abandonment, fear, worry, insecurity, and what the crap other things is he not telling me?  Secrets in marriage = a lie, because the idea of marriage is we run things by each other and neither of us just does our own thing.  So if you’ve been doing your own thing with this other woman for 13 years and giving her money and not telling me, how do I know that you what you are telling me now is the truth?  You just got done lying to me for 13 years.   And I believed you.  Now, just like that, I’m to believe you now when just a few days ago I find out you’ve been lying to me this whole time?  And be “comfortable?”

This is just crazy stuff.

If you have secrets from your spouse you need to come clean.  If you can’t come clean come see me and we’ll chat about it and figure out a way.  Or tell your spouse and then bring him or her in and we’ll talk about building trust back.  It takes a long time.  It can be done.  But you don’t just say you are sorry and expect everything to be Okay.  That is decidedly NOT the way back to healing.

That would be insulting.

Series Part Two: Is Perversion in the Marital Bed Ok?  The Four Aspects of Sex

Series Part Two: Is Perversion in the Marital Bed Ok? The Four Aspects of Sex

If we know what God intended sexuality to be we can spot the counterfeit right away.  In these first two podcasts in the “Perversion” series I’m giving my explanation of the Sexuality of Life.  In future podcasts I’ll unpack the Sexuality of Death.

In this podcast I review what I covered in the first podcast that marriage is designed by God as the building block of society.  The verse from the Bible (repeated in Genesis, by Jesus in the Gospels and by Paul) gives us the foundation of marriage:

For this cause a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

This verse lays out for us Three Boundaries that must be respected for marriage (and therefore, sexuality) to thrive:

1. LEAVING: A Boundary of Protection

2. CLEAVING: A Boundary of Exclusivity

3. BECOMING: A Boundary of Life

Marriage provides the context for sexuality to be all it was meant to be.  Marriage is like a precious vessel and sexuality a priceless ointment that must be stored in the precious vessel.  There is only one vessel that can hold this priceless ointment.  To break the vessel (divorce), to say the vessel is unnecessary (cohabitation), to say any vessel will do and the precious vessel is discriminatory (same-sex), to say we should mix in other ingredients into the priceless ointment (S & M, bondage, porn, fantasy, role-play, etc.) or we can have other ointments in the precious vessel (open marriage) all pervert the blessing God intended sexuality to be (the Sexuality of Life).  If we do any of these sexuality doesn’t just become a different flavor.  It becomes the Sexuality of Death and will destroy not only your life but your marriage, your family and society as we know it.

I go on in the introduction to suggest that The Sexuality of Life has FOUR PURPOSES:

1. Birthing and nurturing the next generation with children’s original birth parents.

2. Providing spiritual oneness between a husband and a wife

It might be tempting to stop there, but God gives us way more sexual energy then you can possibly spend on making babies and becoming one with your husband or wife!  This leads to the two other purposes of The Sexuality of Life:

3. Channeling your sexual energy into creativity and work to be a blessing to your family, your community and the world at large and

4. Moving our spirits toward God in worship.

What do we do instead?  Our society shouts from the mountaintops that if you have a sexual desire of whatever stripe or flavor that this is who you are and it is fine to act out on these desires, that these desires entitle you to certain rights and should be blessed by governmental law, that no boundaries are necessary or the boundaries can be redefined until they are absolutely unrecognizable or they can be ignored or scoffed or stretched or thrown away or stomped on in the sewer and to go for all the gusto and do whatever you want and there will be NO BILL TO PAY…EVER.  It’s just you, baby!  Pleasure here we come.  But this takes us directly through the doorway to the Sexuality of Death.

I then introduce in this podcast the nature of marital sexuality, what the Sexuality of Life actually should look and feel like.  I suggest it has FOUR ASPECTS.  You should ask yourself, if you are married, if the sexuality between you and your spouse looks like these things.  If not, something is amiss:

1.  Is it MUTUAL?  I take this from the word for sexuality in the Bible: “know.”  The word “sexuality” doesn’t occur in the Bible (thankfully!) and is in fact a modern term coined in the last hundred years or so.  I refer to the writings and recordings of Christopher West who discusses the origins of “sexuality” as a concept.  The Bible says “Adam KNEW his wife” and I suggest that sexuality is not just about knowing the other person, but also being KNOWN.  For the brief moments of sexuality there is a nakedness and not being ashamed, a reaching back to the Garden of Eden, reminding us what we COULD have been and foreshadowing the unfathomable joys of heaven.

NOTE: There is nothing here in the Sexuality of Life that is about “getting some” or “giving it up” or “it is my duty.”

2. Is it MEANINGFUL?  Here I refer to Proverbs 5:18-19 (I forget to mention the right chapter in the recording!  Sorry.) where Solomon writes we are to let our spouse be the focus of our sexuality and our spouse ONLY.  We are both to be captivated by our spouse and captivating!  I also refer to the Song of Songs 4:12 and 4:16 where the husband says his wife is a garden locked up and she then invites him into his garden to “to taste it’s choice fruits.”  It is clear from her statement she enjoys that he enjoys exploring her garden.  They explore the garden together.

3. Is it SACRIFICIAL?  Marital sexuality is a great way to learn patience and the nature of sacrificial love!  It will keep you humble and help you grow up!  If you let it!  usually there is a disparity in sexual lovemaking between a husband and wife: one wants it less; one wants it more.  Both parties need to sacrifice for sexuality to be all it is intended to be.  I base this argument on Jesus’ statements about it is more blessed to give than to receive and if you save your life for your own sake you will lose it.  Marital sexuality as it was intended to be makes servants of both of us: we BOTH need to sacrifice.  One of the verses I refer to is 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 where Paul says your body is not your own.  The husband’s body is for the wife and the wife’s body is for the husband.  Sexuality is not about one person giving and the other person taking.  It is about both sacrificing for the other.

4. Is it life-giving?  The Sexuality of Life enhances love and oneness between a husband and a wife.  I believe there is a spiritual battle going on outside of our immediate tactile awareness.  Couples tell me repeatedly that if they are sexual in the types of ways I’m suggesting here (mutual, meaningful, sacrificial and life-giving) they notice they each other more, there’s a lighter spirit, more joy, more laughter, more flirting, more forgiveness, less anger, and less withdrawal for BOTH OF THEM.  I believe that when a husband and wife are sexual with each other in the ways I’m describing here that God literally infuses their relationship with spiritual energy.  This spiritual energy literally brings in the next generation, it protects each of the marital partners from temptation (1 Corinthians 7:2 and 5), it enhances trust and security (Song of Songs 7:10), it promotes interest, confidence and contentment between them (Song of Songs 8:10).

If, however, the nature of the sexuality between them is selfish, sexuality will spread other messages between them, and rather than being a blessing and source of joy, it can be a source of doubt, insecurity and chaos.  These Four Aspects of Sexuality are fundamental to the Sexuality of Life and if you don’t have them you can turn the Sexuality of Life into the Sexuality of Death without even trying!

One time I sat down and thought through my entire current client load, and went through each client in my mind and looking over my notes and asked myself what percentage of my clients have difficulty with sexuality?  Fully 70 percent of them had struggles in this area!  I believe it could well be higher than that.  What is the deal with that?  We live in the most sexualized society in the history of humanity and yet people are fraught with worry, pain and heartache about it?  What has happened?

I believe we’ve lost the precious nature of marital sexuality (what I am calling The Sexuality of Life) and we’ve exchanged it for a counterfeit.  That counterfeit, I will argue going forward in future podcasts, is the Sexuality of Death and it leads to chaos in human relationships, WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE MARRIED!  I will argue you must avoid it and if you don’t you do so at the expense of your own dignity and the sanctity of your marriage or future marriage and the safety of your own family.  Furthermore, your poison spreads to the rest of us and causes the disintegration of society at large!  YIKES!  A lot is at stake here!  More than you can ever know.  Do yourself, your spouse or future spouse, your children and/or future children and the rest of us a favor and learn to harness the God-give sexual desire you do have for His Glory and His intended purposes.  Ignore it and we all suffer, but most of all you.

In the next podcast I will introduce Uncle Bob, my metaphor for the voice of the Sexuality of Death in our society.  You listen to Uncle Bob to your own peril.  Stay Tuned!

How To Make Change Last For Good

Gentlemen: Improve Your Marriage By Improving Yourself

Has it every occurred to any of you that what is extremely beneficial for your marriage is your desire for self-improvement?

Gentlemen, can your wife come home and feel truly blessed because she knows deep within your heart that you are striving to be the best husband, father, employer/employee, and citizen you can be? Does she see you take on new tasks to better yourself? Has she ever seen you challenge the way you think about an issue because the opposite view might be more rational?  Has she ever seen you actual complete a goal you set?

Gentlemen, does she feel like a lady around you or a tramp? Does she feel served and revered by you? Can she truly say it is an honor to be your wife? Can she boast to all her friends about how awesome you are? Can she boast that she came home the other day to a clean and well-ordered house? Can she boast that she never feels like a sexual object but always as a person who is deeply loved? Can she boast that you are always the first to get up in the night when the kids are crying? Can she look you in the eye and say, ‘I am a better person because I married you’?

If not, why? What is holding you back?

Gentlemen, how have you challenged yourself lately? What negative character traits are you trying to rid yourself of? What new character quality/ies are you undertaking? What new talents are you trying to cultivate?

Don’t you realize that your wife longs to see you improve? Don’t you realize your wife longs to boast about you? Don’t you realize that as your personal qualities are perfected the relationships around you improve? Why has this not occurred to you?

Stop complaining and get to work. Stop making excuses. Stop blaming your dad for all your personality blunders. No one likes a whiner—especially your wife.

Improve, Improve, Improve!

This should be your mantra.

Do you think you are a loving man?  Find ways to love even more. Do you think you are generous?  Find ways to give more. Do you think you are a good lover?  Strive to become even more selfless.

Give, Give, Give!

This should be your mentality.

Don’t you realize that your wife grows tired of pandering to all your vices? Don’t you realize that your wife longs to be seen as a rare jewel?

Don’t let the feminist culture deceive you, most women still long to see their men practice chivalry. I don’t imagine the majority of the audience watching Prince William and Miss Catherine getting married at 4 A.M. were men. The dream is still out there: many women still want to be swept of their feet by a prince. Be that prince (I don’t care how cheesy that sounds—its true).

Man up and learn some manors. Open the door for your lady, take her on a date, and buy her that new dress or item she has been eyeing for months. Stop staring at her breast and butt and look her in the face. Stop taking your sexual fantasies out on her by imposing embarrassing requests on her.  Make her your fantasy.

Stop being lazy and learn how to clean a bathroom. Stop making your wife do all the house work. Go workout and look fit for your wife. Eat better and stop drinking so much. Life is not that bad. Learn to control yourself.

Put the computer down and go hangout with your kids. They want to be with you. Teach your son how to be a man. Take your daughter on a date and teach her what a true gentlemen is. Be such a good father that she has a difficult time finding a man to marry. Stop putting this off; soon they will be gone and you will have missed your opportunity. No excuses!

Gentlemen, it is time to be a man. It is time you think about whatever is noble, true, and beautiful. Stop letting your mind run in the gutter. Put off moral filth and the lust of the eye. Learn to control your sexual passion so you can truly give yourself to your spouse. There is nothing like sex when your desire is to completely give yourself to her and not to merely get rid of sexual tension. The latter reduces your wife to an object and a stripper; the former elevates her to the most cherished person on the earth. Let your bedroom than be the Prince’s chamber where your wife feels like a Princess and not a mistress.

Gentlemen, it is time to raise your wife’s expectations of what a husband should be. Make sure, that if you died, she would have to marry a saint to feel like she is truly loved.