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 One On Sexual Desire: The Second Saddest Thing Said About Marriage

Part One On Sexual Desire: The Second Saddest Thing Said About Marriage

This is a first in a series of blogs on Sexual Desire.

I could go the rest of my life and not be sexual. I just don’t need sex.

Clients Bound And Determined To Doom Their Marriages

The saddest thing I hear about marriage is when the couple comes to therapy and one partner says he or she is done, done, done with the marriage and they won’t be dissuaded. This person might have even agreed to go to marital therapy. I hope he doesn’t say to his future girlfriend that he “tried” marital therapy. I’m imagining these people telling their loved ones and friends that marital therapy was a waste of time. No doubt. It’s really not fair for them to say they’ve been to marital therapy. If they were honest the most they could say is they were in a marital therapist’s office once. They could say I had a comfy couch and that my wife did a nice job decorating. That’s it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so sarcastic about this.It’s a pretty hot topic. I certainly needs to be talked about. After they divorce they won’t talk about it, that’s for sure.Other than a child dying, divorce is like the next most difficult thing to deal with emotionally in anyone’s life.It’s hard enough if the couple has had the divorce talk and the divorcing spouse says the whys and the wherefores. I had a client once who came home from work and everything was gone from the house except for his personal belongings and his golf clubs.He never saw his wife again.That’s just cruel.There’s no need to be so mean about it.Divorce by itself is mean enough. So if they can’t talk at all about it at home and they can in my office, I guess that’s a good thing.It’s just not marital therapy.I’m acting as a mediator.That’s fine.I don’t resent it.It’s just a sad thing to have to hear.The saddest thing I do in this field.I’m sure you’ve got your sad things you’ve got to do with your job: Fire somebody, lay somebody off, cut somebody’s salary, discipline a colleague, all just crappy things.

The second most saddest thing (I’m sure there’s something really bad from an English grammar standpoint in writing “the second most saddest thing” but I have no idea how to say it differently. For all you English types I apologize.You’ll just have to grin and bear it.) I’ve heard in my office is the quote at the top of the page. I know if that person can’t figure out a way to enjoy sexuality together with their spouse it’s just a matter of time before the foundation of this marriage is washed away.Sexuality is the life-blood of the marriage. If I can’t figure out a way to help them move into meaningful, mutual, marital sexuality, then I feel I have failed.

I have this sex research lab.It’s called my couch.No, I’m not researching sexual technique.Americans are unwisely and mistakenly obsessed with technique and variety and shaking it up.Everything else is just boring.Sexuality is NOT about technique.If you Googled the word “sex” and you got this article by me about sex you aren’t going to get turned on reading it. Sorry. You might get mad at me or chuckle once in a while, but you won’t start fantasizing. That’s just fine. Yeah, I’m sure there’s some people out there that could use a few hints here and there about sex, but for heaven’s sake, the biggest problem about sexuality is NOT technique.

One marital therapist has written that if you take a Polaroid picture of your sex life (I’m sure he was being metaphorical) you’ll get an idea of how the marriage is doing.I’m discovering this more and more in my research lab.Over and over again couples talk to me about their frustrating sexual lives and over and over again if I can help them figure that out they do awesome and over and over again if I can’t help them figure this out their relationship suffers. Dr. Gottman says he can predict with over 90% accuracy if a couple will divorce by how they treat each other in conflictual situations.He’s the marriage lab guy.He video tapes couple when they argue and talk and has broken marriage down into fine, small little particles.It’s a clever idea and very helpful and I use his material all the time in my office.

My sex research lab is not quite so fancy.No one way mirrors.No video cameras.No research assistants coding every turning up of the mouth and rolling of the eyes.No, just me and my pen and my Sam’s Club yellow notepad and me jotting down things for me to remember so I don’t forget who you are.You live with yourself for years and here’s this guy you’ve talked to for an hour and he’d better remember what you said and if he doesn’t you probably won’t respect him nor come back to him, so since I’m a rather dense guy I gotta write this stuff down:At least the first time or two to get the story right.

If Dr. Gottman thinks he can predict within 90% accuracy (actually I think he says 94%), I can predict within 100% accuracy.My prediction is that if you are NOT sexual with your spouse that you have a 100% chance of either getting a divorce or you will stay married but you will be two actors in a play pretending to be husband and wife and that after awhile the play will get tiring and the fake smile will calcify and your tender heart will curdle and then thicken into a putrid jell until it finally fossilizes.And then won’t you be fun?

There.I heard it again, variations on a theme.It’s not a beautiful symphony though.It’s a funeral dirge:

I could care less if I ever have sex again in my lifetime. I’m just not sexual.

I had to look up dirge on Google because I had no idea how to spell it.I spelled it “durge” at first.The Urban Dictionary said that’s when someone comes up behind you and pops your knees.I thought that was pretty funny and pretty right on, but that’s not what I was looking for.I typed in “durge definition” and finally hit pay dirt when “dirge” came up.And guess what the history of dirge is?It’s from the first word of the Office of the Dead in Latin for the Catholic Church and in time it became used to describe the chanting said or sung at a funeral.Check it out here: That’s perfect. Because if you have this idea that you can be married and NOT be sexual and that is OKAY by you then you are predicting the demise of your own marriage. Goodbye, my dear. Sayonara, baby. Auf Wiedersehen, Honey. 再见, Sweetie.

When I tell you this, you won’t believe that, of course. And if I told you that after you quoted the above marriage funeral dirge you would, of course, be mad and say, no, no, I love my spouse! I’m just not interested in sex. Well, look. I didn’t say you have to think about it. I certainly hope you don’t think about it all the time. There are many other things with which to occupy your time. So, no. You don’t have to think about sex all the time. But you do have to DO it once in awhile. And by “once in awhile” I don’t mean six times a year. That won’t cut it. You’d be wiser to shoot for 3-6 times a month as foundational. More if you are on vacation or the kids are off to grandma’s for a couple of weeks. If the latter, you’d better be locking the front door and turning the thermostat up. KnowwhadImean?

You say, well, we don’t get along well enough.We fight likes cats and dogs.We never talk.  Or spend any time together.  How can I be sexual with my spouse when we bicker?Are you fighting because you aren’t sexual or are you not sexual because you are fighting?Couples that aren’t sexual do two things: Withdraw from each other or fight like mad.Either way the violins are tuning up.  Chicken and the egg.  Oh, you’ve decided on the egg?  Standoff at the O.K. Corral.  Stubbornness.  You will not be dissuaded.  You have made up your mind.  You are right and that’s it.  I guess if you make up all the decisions, there’s no need for a spouse?

What are these people saying (yes, both male and female) that they could be content to never be sexual again? They are saying that they will NOT be influenced by their spouses. I refuse to let you have an impact in my life. I have a wall around my life and it doesn’t include you. I will not give to you. I will not sacrifice for you. I will not reach out to you. I will not open up to you. I will hold grudges. I will not forgive you for any wrong done. I will go through the motions of being married to the public at large, including our children, but you and I both know that this marriage is a façade, a ruse, a make-believe fantasy world where I am under the illusion that I can make the world in my own image and the world I create is me at the center and you have to whirl around my whims and if you get upset about it and complain about it or show any discomfort in any way that we are NOT sexual then I will accuse you of being a control freak!!!! And that will give me, yet again, another reason to turn you down!  See I have this figured out that I will win!!!!

You can bet your spouse will eventually figure this out, too. And you can have your wish: Never be sexual with anyone the rest of your life!!! Whoohoo!! Living by yourself! You and your cute little snow-white Maltese dog that looks so pure and angelic.

The tympani are tuning up. You can hear their subtle pounding in the background.

Part Three On Healing From An Affair: True Moral Guilt and Its Counterfeits

Part Three On Healing From An Affair: True Moral Guilt and Its Counterfeits

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

Revelation 20: 12-13 (NIV)

Let’s hypothetically say you had an affair. Let’s say you are sorry you had an affair, you are doing whatever you can to not have another affair, you are connecting with your spouse, you are learning what real love is, that it is NOT a feeling, that it is a responsibility, a calling, a duty and a privilege all wrapped up into one, and that you finally get it. Let’s say you are reaching out to your spouse, learning to be the spouse you should be. You are giving even when your spouse can’t give to you. You are being forthright about your life. You are telling your spouse what’s going on with you. There are no secrets any more. Let’s say you do all these things after your affair and you still feel guilty about what you had done. What then?

I would say, good for you.I’m not one to explain away guilt or to talk people out of it.If you were abused or a victim of a crime or some tragic occurrence, like a tornado, and you felt guilty, we’d have a little chat about that.Real genuine guilt is related to doing things we shouldn’t have done, not doing things we should have done, saying things we shouldn’t have said and not saying things we should have said.

Guilt, when you haven’t sinned is counterfeit.It’s not the real deal.The book of Job dealt with that false theology and psychology and rejected it 3500 years ago:That if bad things happen to you it’s because you deserved it.No.Bad things happen to everyone whether we deserve it or not.The rain falls on the rich and the poor.I’m sure there were fine people and evil people in Haiti that got nailed with that earthquake.Sadly, too many of them are going to feel guilty after that occurred.If any of them are fortunate enough to go to counseling, their counselor, if he or she is worth anything, will not let their client get away with taking blame for an earthquake, or being raped or being sexually abused as a child, or being the spouse of someone who had an affair.

If someone murdered your mother or your mom and dad divorced, if you had guilt about that, it would be false guilt.It’s understandable for people to feel guilt, because your feelings are all over the place when tragedy strikes.You are weak and frail emotionally and Satan comes knocking on your door and he tells you God is capricious and fickle and He was out to get you, because you are a dirty so and so.It’s amazing how many people dump God when they go through heartache.For me I want it to be just the opposite:When I’m going through heartache, that’s the very time I need Him.

But instead of false guilt, let’s say you have guilt after having an affair, and you are working hard to make amends with your spouse and taking care of yourself and learning about appropriate boundaries and honoring your marital vows going forward. Let’s say you really ARE guilty, you really did chose to dishonor your vows, but now you are done with that, it’s over, you’ve learned your lesson the hard way (bummer!) and you aren’t going back. If you have guilt now, I’d say good for you.

Good for you because guilt is a great motivator.True, moral-breaking guilt tells me your conscience is alive.You need a conscience if you are going to keep your life on the straight and narrow and never go back.You need a little empathy for the pain that you have brought upon your spouse and your family.Down the road you are going to want your conscience to be alive to help fight temptation.There’s nothing like a little guilt to keep your passions at bay.

If you had broken your marriage vows and pursued your own lusts at someone else’s door (please don’t tell me it “just happened”) and you didn’t feel guilt, I’d be a tad concerned. I would see it as part of my duty as marriage therapist dude to help you see that maybe a little guilt here wouldn’t be such a bad deal. If you have guilt, it’s just one less thing we have to cover.

Early in my therapy career I worked at an agency where one of my responsibilities was to work with sex offenders.This certainly wasn’t my favorite thing to do.It was a little too creepy for my blood, but you have to learn to be a counselor somewhere.One of the major things we did with this population was what as called “empathy training.”This was the idea that you are not going to offend a little girl or boy if you have any empathy for that child.If any of the rest of us ever had a sexual desire to ravish a little child, we suppress that desire and kick it out of heads as so much drivel, because our consciences tells us that it would be a horrid thing to have Uncle Bob or Grandpa do those sorts of awful things to us.

It’s not just the fear of getting caught that keeps people from committing crimes.It’s empathizing with one’s possible victim that keeps these criminal thoughts away.The theory was that the only way someone could use a little boy or girl for their own pleasure was if the offender is basically dead to any sort of feeling that their victim might be going through at the hand of their abuser.We wanted these offenders to come to the point where they understood what it really felt like to have this stuff done to you.

Now I deal with affairs all the time, but the principle is still the same.With an affair it is a lot easier to teach empathy because the victim, the spouse that didn’t have the affair, is right there in the office.I let that person talk about what it is like to have a spouse have an affair and how that plays havoc on his or her brain, because I want the offender, the affairee, to kick his or her conscience into gear.

So if you have some guilt after the things that you did, I would say, good for you.We’re on the right track.

And I’m NOT going to talk you out of it…Unless that guilt tells you that you a such a low piece of crap that you may as well go ahead and continue to screw up your life and everyone in it. Then we’d have a chat. Then I might wrap your knuckles.

Wouldn’t that be the pits?You do all this work in therapy, you make amends with your spouse, you reorient your life and your priorities, you start spending time with your spouse, you start actually MAKING love WITH your spouse instead of going through the motions, you recommit your heart, you respect boundaries and honor your vows and you STILL FEEL LIKE CRAP and you start to tell yourself that all this therapy and coming clean and repenting and making amends is for the birds and the worms can have it, too, and you’ve done all this work and nothing’s change for you, you’re just a loser, a frickin’ loser, and there’s nothing you or any therapist, or any minister either, can do to make you feel any better and since you don’t feel any better and you are doing all the right stuff you may as well act like your feel, so you go back to the ways that led to your emotional, relational and spiritual demise out of habit and comfort with being a total wasteland when it comes to morals and principles and the fundamentals and you go back to screwing up your life because your feelings keep pounding in your head that since you are such a loser you may as well act the part.Wouldn’t that be a crapper?

Now if you have that kind of guilt, then we’d have a chat and I’d be telling you that that type of guilt isn’t true guilt at all, that those types of thoughts and feelings may come upon someone who’s really done things to damage he or her relationships and integrity, but it doesn’t mean a person has to camp there.These feelings need to just be passing through.You take a look at them, evaluate them, see them for what they are worth (nothing!), realize that you are having them because you really did screw up a bunch of stuff and this is collateral damage that you are going to have to pass through and pretty soon you’ll be fine, and you’ll be on the other side.

And most of you will go, “Whew!” and wipe your brow and buckle down and continue to honor boundaries and reach out to your spouse and live a life of balance and never go back to whoring around and spreading your seed in the sewer.

But some of you won’t and that’ll be sad, but it’ll be said of you that there wasn’t a connection with your therapist, no alliance there, or you had the wrong therapist, or you were a difficult client or you just didn’t get it or you’ll say your therapist was off the wall, no pun intended, and he just didn’t get it, didn’t understand me, nobody understands me and you’ll continue your life-style of choice and all the things I warned you about will come true.

But the bottom line, it doesn’t matter if I get it or your next therapist gets it.It’s all neither here nor there.What matters is what YOU do with your life, how YOU spend your time, what YOU think about and what YOU do with the thoughts you think about and the feelings you feel.

Because, look.I’m not going to be standing next to you on Judgment Day.You’ll have to stand there in front of the King and Judge of the Universe all by yourself and answer for what YOU thought felt and said and did.It won’t matter if I got it or not.It’s your life that will be on the overhead.You WILL be responsible then.

My point is let’s be responsible NOW, let’s make the right choices NOW, let’s rise above the crazy feelings NOW, let your true moral guilt be a great motivator NOW, while the sun still rises every morning.

Part Three On Healing From An Affair: True Moral Guilt and Its Counterfeits

Part Two On Healing From An Affair: A Meditation on Marriage and Affairs and Love on Palm Sunday

Many of the people speed theire garmentes in the waie. other cut doune braunches from the trees, and strawed them in the waye. Moreover the people that went before, and they also that cam after cried saying: hosianna to the sonne of David. Blessed be he that commeth in the name of the lorde, hosianna in the hyest.

The Gospel of Matthew, The .xxj. Chapter, The New Testament 1526: Translated by William Tyndale: Original Spelling Edition, 2009, The British Library, London, England.

(For the purposes of simplicity, A is the person who had an affair, B is the spouse who didn’t have an affair and C is the person with whom A had the affair.)

A blog or two ago I suggested that asking WHY someone had an affair isn’t always very helpful because we end up hearing the excuses A said to A’s self and that whatever excuses A was saying to A’s self are a bunch of baloney.Just like it would only be an excuse if a murderer said he killed his mother so he could get her life insurance money or his inheritance from her.It doesn’t explain anything.There are millions of people who are standing in line to receive inheritances from their mothers and they aren’t even contemplating murdering their mothers.It wouldn’t even occur to them it is OKAY or even that it is an option!

So if you trouble yourself to ask why A had A’s affair you won’t get any answers you are going to like.Unless A answers that A was selfish and only thinking of A’s self, all the answers are going to seem pretty shallow and will just make you mad.

Then in our last blog I looked at how to heal from an affair once one has been committed.In that blog I suggested the quickest way to heal from an affair for both A and B is for A to never have another one.You might think this is rather shallow for me to say that, but if you were B you would be worried sick on two thoughts:That A had an affair at all and that how will I ever know that A won’t have another one!It is one thing to heal from the first affair; it is another thing altogether to have to deal with this crap all over again.

And if you were A and you were really honest with yourself, you would be worried sick how vulnerable you are to temptation and what do I need to do to assure my own self and B’s heart that I’m all in and that (eventually) B can trust me after all and will I ever even be able to trust myself?

For A to never have another affair I want A AND B to discover, sometimes for the first time, what true love really means. The Bible says in the last days that love will grow cold. It doesn’t say HOW love will grow cold. It only says that it will grow cold. Well, we must be in the last days, because with divorce hovering around 50% for the last forty years for the first time in the history of humankind, something must be really amiss. These kind of divorce rates are absolutely horrid and unheard of and unprecedented in all of human history and now they are so common that if you casually mention to any acquaintance of any sort, or, sadly, your own mom or dad, that you are having a marital problem, he or she will immediately tell you to divorce your spouse’s sorry butt, that you don’t have to take no crap and you are just settling and you deserve better and no one deserves to be treated that way. Divorce is the treatment of choice. Perseverance or hanging in there or working toward a goal never even comes up. Your happiness is your goal. No one considers the road to happiness might not always be the easy route.

The same philosophy that has led people to divorce and change spouses about as frequently as they do cars, is the same philosophy that has led people to have affairs. This is the same inner workings of the brain that has led to the rise in crime and the denigration of society and the poisoning of your own brain. This is the same philosophy that has ruined your life and is ruining everyone else’s life, too, and until we purge our brains of it, and our souls, too, we will well be on the way to being a scourge to everyone in our path, most of all ourselves.

To call it a philosophy is really a stretch because it is much more insidious than that.It is basically the idea, the thought, the tendency and proclivity for you and I to think that everyone else in our lives exists to make us happy, including God, and if God doesn’t get his act together, well, then, forget Him, cause I’m just not going to settle for a God that won’t treat me with the dignity that I deserve and if He won’t do what I want, well, then, screw Him, what’s He ever done for me?We treat our spouses the same way.We only love unless our spouse loves us.We only give unless our spouse gives to us.We’re only in a good mood if our spouse is in a good mood.Our love is only attraction deep, and attraction lasts about as long as a breath and then gout or gravity takes over and then whatdoyouhave?If your spouse would only stay married to you because you deserved it, well then, you better start saving for a lawyer, because there’s nothing you’ve done to deserve someone being faithful to you, let alone never having an affair on you and their heart only pining for you.This is the great pain of an affair:You deserve this and worse, because you couldn’t get low enough to crawl out of here if your sins were listed one by one and written in a book.Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?Either one:You getting low enough to crawl out of here or the list of all your sins?Either one would be enough for you to be humiliated forever, which, I think, is the whole point of Hell.

Everyone’s heart has gone astray.A, B and C.And all the D’s through Z’s, too.We all live for ourselves and our prayers only reach the ceiling.

So when I’m talking to A about what real love is I’m also talking to B and to me, too.And the love I’m talking to A and B about is a love that never grows old and stands the test of time.It goes beyond the here and now and touches eternity.It is a love that is so difficult that NO ONE can do it, not even me.So when I’m telling my clients about it, I’m really, in a way, inviting them to say in their hearts, there’s no way on God’s green earth or on white glaciers or the blue ocean, too, or even in the brown desert, least of all our carpeted den or our private bedroom, that I can love like that.I’d need a little help.

Because the love I’m talking about, that does NOT grow cold in the latter days, is a love that covers a multitude of sins. It is a love that does not seek it’s own. It is a love that protects. It is a love that bears all things, endures all things. It is patient. It is kind. It is long suffering. Anything else is just a counterfeit, an obnoxious gong and a clanging symbol: It makes a lot of noise, but it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t warm any one’s hearth, let alone your spouse’s, or even your own heart. You can’t get this love at the supermarket, or on iTunes and your iPod will never have enough memory to contain this type of love. This love is NOT about me, or you, either. It is a love that reaches out, even when you don’t feel like it.

Did you catch that?Love that grows cold is love that only feels.That is the great lie of our day, the reason we’re dumping marriages on garbage day.The shallow love that grows cold is love that has no fuel, no wood to kept the fire burning.If your spouse doesn’t make you feel good any more, dump his or her butt!Or have an affair with someone who finally taught you the true meaning of narcissistic, selfish love.I just love how you make me feel!!!!This type of love empties the stomach.No wonder this love is so shallow.You just spewed it all over the floor and we’ve got a mess on our hands.If there’s one thing an affair will teach you, it is that the only person more selfish in the world than you is your affairee.If someone were to say, you deserve each other, we’d all roll our eyes and go, you got that right.Don’t tell me you love each other.No.You selfish each other.

Because the love that does not grow cold ALSO keeps it’s promise!!Did you hear that?You made a promise when you got married.You said: Having THEE only!Just your spouse.That’s it.No matter what.I’ll give to you.Even in sickness and in health.Even if you can’t give to me, I will give to you.Even if you don’t make me feel good.That’s what you said.

But your love was shallower than that, wasn’t it? Shallower?Ha!It’s so shallow, you can’t even wade in your love.Nothing there but dust.Dry as dust or cold as ice.Pick your own metaphor. It won’t be far off.

No.If your marriage is going to last more than 7.2 years, your love better be more than feelings.Anyone can give your feelings a buzz if you will let them.It’s there for the taking.

Careful. If your love is that worthless it will scream out to you on judgment day. You say you can’t love like that? Me either. I had to search a little higher. Oprah’s god-within-you didn’t cut for me. I looked inside and didn’t find much that was worth worshipping. The Serpent was right: I know good AND evil. I think I need to concentrate on knowing God instead.

Stop making your spouse god.He or she cannot and should not make you feel love.That is NOT their job.Your job is NOT to worry about if your spouse is doing what your spouse is supposed to be doing.Your job is to worry about what you are supposed to be doing and you are suppose to be a loving spouse regardless if your spouse is a loving spouse to you or not.This is a love that won’t grow cold.You say you can’t love like that?Good for you.If you can say that, maybe you could get this…finally.

I’m writing this on Palm Sunday in Cambridge, England.I’m writing this on an historic day near an historic university.Cambridge University was 800 years old last year.  The Queen even came to help celebrate.Eight hundred years?That’s pretty impressive.But this day, nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth road a donkey into Jerusalem to the praise of the masses.He made them all feel really good.They were so happy!They were throwing palm branches before him and shouting Hosannas to the Son of David!

That’s all well and good…on Sunday.But the pomp and circumstance didn’t last long. By Thursday, Jesus is lamenting that even his closest followers wouldn’t stay with him one hour.One hour?How about a week?What about a lifetime?How about eternity?

We all know what happened that Friday:The greatest thing and the lowest thing, all wrapped up into one.He bore our transgressions, so that our love wouldn’t have to grow cold anymore.He demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, he died for us.He demonstrated love for us.It was real.You could see it.If you were there, you’d smell it.The taste of death was in the air.

Love that is only a feeling, lasts but an hour.And then they come see me.They can see Friday coming and they sense that their marriage will be dying on a cross and there’s no resurrection in sight.No.Your marriage doesn’t have to die.Your spouse doesn’t have to die, either.Or turn over a new leaf.Or finally reach out to you.

No.If love isn’t going to grow cold, YOU have to die.To yourself.Finally.You are not a big enough god to save your soul.One little heart attack, one little bit of cholesterol that decides to take a tour of your circulation system, one little bus, one little mishap by that driver across the lane and you are history, baby.Your god better be bigger than your feelings.It better be bigger than your spouse or your affairee.If your spouse is your god I feel sorry for you, your spouse and your kids.And if your affair is your god, Oh Baby!But if your feelings are you god, you won’t just be running with scissors.You and your cousins will be taking down society with you and we’ll all be in breadlines with no one left to make the bread, let alone harvest the wheat or serve the bread.

We’d all better have a god bigger than our bellies or our feelings or our spouses or our marriages or our kids or our jobs or our bank accounts or our country.Your god better be big enough for the celebration of Palm Sunday, the death of Good Friday and the victory of Resurrection Sunday.

Anything short of that and we’re all just spinning our wheels.

Part Three On Healing From An Affair: True Moral Guilt and Its Counterfeits

The “Why” Question For An Affair

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the LORD

Proverbs 16:2

If you’ve had an affair, you’ve had an affair because you had an affair.Plain and simple.Be careful about all these excuses about how your husband wouldn’t talk to you.Or he never helped. Or all she did was nag.Or she didn’t respect you.Or all the two of you did was fight.Or he never appreciated you.She never complimented you.Or she took you for granted.Or the sex was boring or rare or non-existent or she made it obvious she wasn’t into it.Or.Or.Or.Or.

Do you hear yourself when you tell yourself or your spouse these things? Do you hear how pathetic it sounds? Put yourself on the other side of these excuses and puke. Imagine your spouse had an affair and she told you lies like the first paragraph above. Imagine you are a completely broken spirit because your husband had an affair and you asked why did you have an affair and he told you it was because you put on weight. Please. This is a complete fabrication, but you are a wreck of person since finding out he had an affair and now he tells you this? Guess what? You are going to believe this lie! And now you will feel even worse!

If your spouse had an affair, steer away from the why questions.You don’t want to know why.If you knew why you’d probably die of shock.No one could take it.Only God knows the motives of the heart.If you’re going to go start reading minds you’ll only hurt yourself more.If your spouse had even half a clue as to why she had an affair, she wouldn’t have had one!If she tells you it’s because she didn’t feel close to you anymore and that you are never home and when you are home you spend the night on the couch and she has to do everything including the dinner, the bills, the kids and the mess of a house, don’t believe it for even half a second.

“But Dr. Wall, that’s why I did have an affair. If he was the husband he was supposed to be, I’d never have had an affair.”

Really? Re-read that previous sentence. Now insert your name where it says “husband.” Do you see it? “If I was the wife I was supposed to be, I’d never have an affair.” Period. If your husband wasn’t fulfilling his end of the bargain, if he was letting you do everything, that’s a separate issue. His selfish behavior does not somehow relieve you of your vows and now you can go do whatever you want. It’s an excuse, a justification, you can tell yourself to make it Okay in your heart so you don’t go crazy, but that’s all it is: An excuse and a justification so you don’t go crazy.

Let’s look at the Ten Commandments for a minute. Number 6, 7 and 8 are:

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

Let’s say you murder somebody.I know you wouldn’t, but let’s say you did.Now let’s say when the investigating detective asks you why you murdered your neighbor you gave a bunch of reasons: You hated him.He kept blowing his snow onto your driveway after you’d already shoveled.He never mowed his lawn.He played his stereo too loud.His dog never shut up.He had an affair with your wife.He molested your thirteen-year old daughter.He cheated you out of some money.You were having an affair with his wife and he found out.Whatever.

Do any of these excuses cut it? Do any of these so-called “reasons” give you carte blanche to reinvent the Ten Commandments and insert your own rules for you? Did the Ten Commandments come with escape clauses for you? Did God say, these are the Ten Commandments for everyone, unless you can find a really, really good reason not to keep them. If so, you are off the hook. But keep in mind you need a really, really good excuse.

Or you steal your neighbor’s car and the police officer asks you why you did it and you said you were envious of your neighbor, or you’ve always wanted a car like that, or you were broke, or you needed the money to pay off your gambling debt or you were planning to use the proceeds to support your drug use.Whatever.

Here’s the kicker.You had a car.Then you went out and stole your neighbor’s car.Now you’ve got two cars.One car you paid for; one you stole.Why would you need to steel a car when you already have one?Sorry.I just asked why.Don’t answer that question.

I wonder if it’s only a coincidence that adultery is smack dab between murder and stealing in the Ten Commandments? I’m thinking not. I’m thinking an affair is like a murder and robbery: The death of your own innocence and the stealing of someone else’s. Like a murder everyone around you is affected: Your spouse, the affairee’s spouse, your kids, your affairee’s kids, your extended family, your affairee’s extended family, your friends your affairee’s friends, and society at large. Sometimes people lose their jobs because of it. They certainly lose any respect they had. Like a robbery, you are taking something that is not yours, that you have no business having. You didn’t work for it. You didn’t earn it. You didn’t pay for it. You don’t deserve it. You just took it. It wasn’t yours to take, and you took it anyway. Your affairee took it from you, too. Both of you are taking each other. Marriage is about giving your heart away to your beloved. An affair is about stealing. Don’t tell me you loved your affairee. You just took her innocence away. It wasn’t yours to take. You took your wife’s innocence away. Or your husband’s. You took the innocence and protection of your marriage away. The marriage boundary has a huge hole in it. Chaos has entered. Or in the words of Solomon:

Folly brings punishment to fools.

Proverbs 16:22

An affair is it’s own punishment. You don’t even have to believe in hell. You ignore the marriage boundary at your peril. The Ten Commandments aren’t there to make your life miserable and take your fun away. The Ten Commandments are given to protect your soul from the worst side of yourself. You keep God’s commands and you have peace. You break them, ignore them, scoff at them? Ha! I think not.

Imagine the pride of heart it takes for you to convince yourself that your affair, emotional or otherwise, is fine.The Ten Commandments don’t apply to you.Your marriage vows are expendable.Being faithful?No biggie.You’ll just forget the wife or husband of your youth.You worship you at the altar.You put you first.Forget dependability, loyalty, perseverance, promises, integrity and truth.Your feeeeeeeeeelings are more important.No one will know.You can give your heart to someone else and it’s FINE.

Tell that to your son who will despise you.Tell that to your daughter, who starts sleeping around and won’t talk to you anymore.Tell that to your wife or husband, who cries into the wee hours of the night when the news that you are not what you have portrayed comes out.The truth is revealed that you lied.You told yourself it was Okay as long as no one found out.

Alright.Let’s say no one else knows except you and your affairee.Well?That’s not really true is it?Your heart knows.God knows.Your affairee knows.That’s three witnesses and we’ve only started.What about your car?Or the cell phone company?Or your computer history?The walls will testify.The mirror shouts back.The strange sidewalks you stroll down in all your arrogance pronounce your doom.There’s that stench in your car.Your clothes reveal.Better take that shower.Your soap suds in protest.Your towel knows.You can’t dry yourself enough. Out damned spot.Your conscience pounds away in your head.You lie to yourself you’ve done no wrong.You lie to yourself you are fine.You lie to yourself that there isn’t a God and there isn’t a wrong or right and you can do these things and there are no consequences.It’s fine.Everything’s fine.And your ceiling creeps down on you and you get claustrophobic and you can’t be around people any more because you panic that they all can read your mind and your mind tells you are a liar and that all of this is wrong and you can’t do it without a cost and there will be a penalty to pay for your lies.And then the panic passes and you go Whew! and walk away and ignore your conscience and you call her or text him again and it feels so good.It can’t be wrong.

Could it?

What if it is wrong?

If it is wrong it won’t matter WHY you did it.

It’ll only matter that you did.