All posts by Kim Bowen

Pornography Problems: a Cultural Epidemic & Crisis

The problem with pornography addiction

Pornography problems.

They’re bigger than you might think.

TIME Magazine’s cover story from the week of April 11, 2016 states that “A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents.”

YourBrainOnPorn.com also sites the article with the following subheading:  “The first generation of men who grew up with unlimited online porn sound the alarm”

“These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning. The results of the experiment, they claim, are literally a downer.” (TIME)

Ironically though, TIME Magazine used pornographic images to accompany the story.

Dr. Jim Dennison recently wrote this in his daily cultural commentary piece dated April 6, 2016:

The photographs that accompany the article are “totally unnecessary to the story. I cannot think of a rationale that defends including them. I can only assume that whoever made this decision thought their graphic nature would sell more magazines. If so, Time is using sexual images to make money, which makes its magazine pornography…This is like offering whiskey at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.”

The Problems with Pornography Use

Dennison also discusses the scientific evidence that indicates that watching pornography causes brain damage, not to mention that it’s highly addictive.

We know that porn is often linked with lower sex drives. The irony here is that it is often used by couples to enhance their sex lives, and in the beginning it sure seems to do just that. But this is a danger zone. Marriage doesn’t solve pornography use, but pornography can destroy a marriage.

One Couple’s Story: A Pornography Problem

Mark and Susan watched pornography videos together because both of them felt it heightened their sexual experience.  

Mark enjoyed watching Susan get turned on by what was happening on the screen. Neither felt there was anything wrong with what they were doing because they were doing it together and they were having better sex!  

But over time, Susan became less interested in the videos.  She began feeling as if she and Mark were never having sex without them, and there was less intimacy when they did have sex.  

Mark knew Susan was starting to get turned off by the process, so he began viewing porn alone.  He and Susan were having sex less and less often so he felt justified in turning to outside sources for gratification.

 They came to see me when Susan realized just how much porn Mark was viewing and that he had begun entering chat rooms to have sexual conversations with other people.

Mark and Susan were caught up in the vicious cycle that is the beginning of a full blown sexual addiction that could have destroyed their marriage.

Get Help for Your Pornography Problem

If you have a pornography addiction, we can help. Many of our counselors and coaches have helped porn addicts break the cycle, and some of our staff have battled this addiction themselves. Eric Tooley shares his experience here.  Now Eric leads a non-profit organization, Noble Choices, and teaches seminars around the country to schools and churches on the dangers of porn to both men and women.

Reaching out because you are struggling with porn is often intimidating, shameful and scary but we promise you that working with us is very private, discreet and effective.  

Contact us online or by phone at (972) 441-4432. 

Not Having Sex? 6 Possible Reasons for a Sexless Marriage

You Are Not Having Sex.

At least that is what the statistics report.

Married couples are simply not having sex.

A marriage is considered sexless if the couple is only having sex on average once a month or less. By some reports, 15% to 20% of marriages are sexless.

It isn’t just the women who are saying no, either. There seem to be plenty of men who are avoiding physical intimacy with their wives. 20 to 30 percent of men and 30 to 50 percent of women say they have little or no sex drive. — USA Today

Married Couples are Not Having Sex

The “low sex” category is even greater.

This means having sex once or twice a month.

While there is no specific guideline on how much sex is the right amount, couples who have it on average of once a week seem to report the greatest levels of satisfaction in their marriages.

I work with couples every week, and I’m amazed at how many of them are going months and years without sex. Years!

I just don’t think we are talking enough about this problem.

These types of marriages can go on this way until the partner who wants to have sex has had enough, and gives the ultimatum that the relationship is over unless the problem is dealt with. That’s usually what it takes to get the lower desire partner in my office.

There are many reasons why a couple is not having sex.

A low sex drive can certainly have a physical and biochemical component. Hormones play a huge part in how much you want sex. Some women have problems with painful sex as well. But honestly, physical reasons are rarely the cause for the sexless marriages I see in my office.

Sometimes it is an undisclosed affair or emotional infatuation with someone else. But most often, it is something going wrong in the relationship dynamics of daily living. Here I’ve listed the ones I come across most often.

6 reasons couples are not having sex

Six Possible Reasons Why You Are Not Having Sex

Number One: You’re too busy and too tired

Sex comes from abundance. When you are depleted, there is nothing left to give. Some spouses are parents, students, volunteers and employees. There simply isn’t enough energy for sex and that is a problem. If this is your situation, you may have to be strict in protecting your time and resources and become a master at saying “no.”

I’m the worst at self-care, so I get it, but I also know when I don’t leave enough margin in my life for relaxation, I usually hit a wall that forces me to slow down. So these days, I’m forcing myself to have down time.

Number Two: There is resentment in the marriage

I see this one a lot. If your spouse isn’t wanting sex, ask yourself this question: “What has my spouse been wanting or needing from me that I am not giving?”

Does your wife want you to help more around the house?

Does your husband want you to curb your spending?

Resentment can start with the little things, and if they aren’t dealt with openly, the resentment will eat away at passion. Trust me on this one.

Just because it isn’t a big deal for you, doesn’t mean your spouse isn’t upset.

I just met with a client who now wants a divorce because he doesn’t feel in love with his wife. She really hurt his feelings 10 years ago, and he never worked it out with her. He never even told her his feelings were hurt. He built up so much resentment he shut her out emotionally. Resentment kills relationships! Don’t let it happen to yours.

Avoid resentment with two simple techniques:

1. Talk about it.

Do not expect your spouse to read your mind, pick up on cues, or just know what you are needing or feeling.

Relationships are about constant negotiation.

If something isn’t working for you, re-negotiate!

2. Put action behind requests.

If your spouse isn’t willing to meet you in the middle, stop settling for less and getting angry about your position. Learn how to set limits without being controlling that will actually protect the relationship.

Number 3: Criticism and Complaints

I see a lot of critical spouses.

When women are critical of men, it almost always kills the men’s sex drives.

Men have so much performance anxiety anyway. If a man feels heavily criticized by his mate, he will shut down. Besides, who wants to take their clothes off around someone who is never satisfied?

If you are in a sexless marriage, pay attention to how much complaining or criticizing you are doing.

Don’t approach your partner from a position of complaint which focuses on what they are doing wrong or not doing well. Instead, focus on what you like and ask for more of that.

For example, if your spouse is coming home late without a heads up, instead of saying “You never let me know when you are coming home!” Instead say “When you call me and let me know you are running late, it tells me you value my time, and that makes me feel loved by you.”

Number Four: Bad technique

I’ve said this a hundred times and I’ll say it again:

For a man to have good sex, he just requires a woman who looks and acts like she is enjoying it.

For women to have good sex, she requires good technique.

Great books on sex to explore:

Number Five: Porn Addiction

Porn is often linked with lower sex drives. The irony here is that it is often used by couple to enhance their sex lives, and in the beginning it sure seems to do just that. But this is a danger zone. Marriage doesn’t solve pornography use, but pornography can destroy a marriage.

Curious to know what happens when you look at porn? Click here to learn more about the studies being done on Your Brain On Porn.

Number Six: A Needy Partner

When a partner is emotionally needy, it drains the relationship quickly.

If you are depending on your partner to bolster your self-esteem, to frequently reassure you that you are ok, or to help you manage your own emotions on a regular basis, you are too needy.

It is very likely that you and your partner are co-dependent and that is a big problem. Co-dependence creates addictive relationships that can become toxic. I recommend Pia Mellody’s Facing Codependence.

Are you in a sexless marriage? Time to make a change.

Sex is important.

If you or your partner feels you aren’t getting enough of it, something needs to be done.

I’ve never yet met a couple where the high desire spouse wasn’t feeling resentful and angry about all the sex he or she wasn’t getting.

The low desire spouse has all the control, and it doesn’t feel good to be constantly rejected.

Then all non-sexual physical touch also goes away.

The low desire spouse is afraid to cuddle because they don’t want it to lead to sex. They are afraid a back rub will “lead to something else,” so you wind up in a marriage without any physical affection!

I’ve seen many couples where one of them really doesn’t care to ever have sex again. If this is your partner, it may be time to give them an ultimatum.

Do it before you don’t care anymore.

I’ve seen too many times when the rejected spouse put up with it, until they finally decided they wanted out and nothing could persuade them to try again.

There simply was too much hurt and rejection.

And the irony is the lower desire spouse almost always says, “I didn’t know it was that painful for you. If you had told me years ago, I would have changed something”.

If you are in a sexless marriage, and you are unhappy about it, raise the alarm and do it LOUDLY!

Contact Us

Contact us and let us work with you to help you build a healthy sexual relationship. If you aren’t local, our coaches can work with you over the phone – which some clients prefer because it feels more anonymous to them.

Just stop ignoring the fact you are not having sex!

How Shame Ruins Your Life, and How To Change It

how to get rid of shame

I hate shame, and I hate cancer.

Want to know the correlation?

I hate cancer because it kills by ravaging the body and leaves families without dads, mothers and siblings.

It is difficult to treat, and it sometimes goes undetected until it is too late.

Shame is emotional cancer, and I hate it just as much, if not more than cancer.

I hate it because it ravages the soul and steals lives as quickly or as slowly as cancer.

I hate shame more because no one wants to talk about it, so it goes undetected for months, or years, or forever.

It robs lives when it whispers lies into our minds that we are defective and broken. And because of that, we are somehow less-than.

But unlike cancer, shame is…well…shameful.

Unlike cancer patients, no one gathers around the infected and brings food and comfort. If everyone knew that shame can be just as deadly, perhaps we would all be more watchful and compassionate.

But shame can ravage more than a person’s soul.

Shame will sabotage relationships–especially romantic relationships

Shame causes us to fight our way out of responsibility.

We have to deflect and deny accountability because it hurts too bad.

We can’t just admit when we have done wrong, because our shame takes us to dark places we are afraid we will never escape.

So we minimize our bad behavior.

Shame also filters everything that comes at us through a lens of contempt.

Our spouse may want to simply point out an area where we need to improve, but instead, we feel attacked.

We can’t hold ourselves in warm regard, so we force others to mirror back to us that we are good enough. If they fail to do that, we get angry or lose interest in them.


The best I way I know to illustrate shame is with client’s stories.

(Names and specific details are changed to protect privacy.)

Brian isolates himself because he feels undeserving of love

Jennifer is married to Brian. They have two kids, and everyone loves each other in this family. But Brian is moody and this causes problems. He is often irritable with the kids and snaps at them for no good reason. He spends a lot of time in the bedroom alone watching TV when the family is together. He says he is just an introvert, and that there is nothing wrong, but his family misses him and wants to spend time with everyone together.

When they can coax Brian out of his shell, he can be playful or he can be mean. No one ever knows which Brian they will see. Brian is so closed off. He won’t discuss what he’s thinking or worrying about. His family just feels more and more distant and no one knows what to do.

Shame is a toxic part of this family. What his wife and children don’t see is that Brian has a lot of shame. He doesn’t think he deserves his family and he believes they will all be much better off without him. He isn’t suicidal, he just doesn’t want to be around others when he is feeling the toxic effects of shame so acutely.

Even though Brian is the one feeling the shame, it affects his entire family. His kids don’t know his withdrawal is about Bryan’s issues. Like all kids, they assume it is because he doesn’t love them. Bryan’s wife believes he doesn’t love her enough either. Now Bryan’s shame transfers to all of them as a carried feeling. It is one way shame passes down from one generation to the next.

Bill tries to drink his shame away

Serena is married to Bill. Bill has three to four drinks every evening but refuses to consider he has a drinking problem–he just needs the alcohol to unwind. Sometimes Bill does get excessively drunk, and when he does he embarrasses everyone in the family

At his worst, he will call someone stupid or shout humiliating things, but this doesn’t happen often enough to concern him. He gets angry when his wife insists he stop drinking. That’s because Bill is using the alcohol to self-medicate.

Bill is very defensive. When his family points out his drinking is embarrassing to them, he gets angry. He insists they are all too sensitive. When I meet with Bill alone, I see the shame that he bears. His wisest self knows he is failing his family but he avoids taking responsibility because he already thinks he is a terrible person. He hides from the truth and keeps drinking to shut out the voices in his head that tell him he isn’t good enough or smart enough. He just wants everyone to leave him alone, so he uses anger to keep them away.

When I confronted Bill on his behavior, he was angry with me. He threatened to walk out and never come back. I told him he could absolutely do that, but I felt sure he was about to lose his wife and kids. I also told him that I knew he could look at himself and see what his family needed him to see: that he was hurting them and he could do better.

Bill sobbed on my couch and all the shame and humiliation he felt came pouring out of him. Bill was told he was worthless his entire life. He didn’t want to live this way any longer. Before he could make any real improvement he needed to go through our Breaking Free workshop. This workshop was the beginning of a new life for Bill.

Sandra had an affair because of shame

Mark is married to Sandra. Sandra is a stay-at-home with three small kids,  while Mark is a successful professional who works long hours. Sandra loves her kids but she gets bored staying home all day. She has a college degree in philosophy but doesn’t think that will help her get a job. She doesn’t know what fuels her passion or purpose in life and she feels lost and alone.

Mark is always working and when he is home, she feels he is critical of her and how she spends her time. She admits she doesn’t do a very good job of cleaning and cooking but she just can’t motivate herself to care. She thinks Mark is brilliant but believes she has never lived up to her potential. Mark’s mother doesn’t like her either. Sandra reports that her mother-in-law is very critical and thinks Sandra takes advantage of her son, Mark.

When I met Sandra alone, I discovered that she has an inner critic that echoes the messages she got growing up. She is simply not enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not fit enough. Not perfect enough.

Sandra went on a weekend trip with her girlfriends and met a man in a bar. This man paid her attention and made her feel special. For the first time in her life, she experienced the thrill of infatuation. She fell into a sexual and an emotional affair that lasted several months. But the guilt started to destroy her. She began fantasizing about driving off a bridge and ending it all. Her husband found out about the affair and her life fell apart.

Mark wants to work on the marriage, but Sandra is having a difficult time forgiving herself. She has shame attacks regularly. Until Sandra deals with the root of her insecurities and feelings of worthlessness, she will flounder around feeling lost and disconnected.


These are three different couples to help you see how shame can show up differently in relationships. Shame can manifest itself in isolation, anger, or self destructive behaviors. It keeps you a prisoner to lies that restrict your happiness and joy.

When shame is at its worst, I see clients who are unable to function in their daily lives.

what shame looks like

Examples of how shame can manifest itself at the lowest point:

  • It causes depression even to the point of being suicidal.
  • Drinking to numb the pain – longing for relief from the misery of feeling unloved and unlovable
  • Binge eating or shopping excessively.
  • Viewing porn to numb the pain.
  • Engaging in extreme risk taking behavior to keep the adrenaline flowing
  • Using prescription or illegal drugs
  • Self-mutilating behavior like cutting or hitting hard objects with bare hands. Feeling physical pain often lessens the intense emotional pain shame causes.

How Do Shame Attacks Work?

Everyone makes up stories. When someone says something or shows us behavior, we assign meaning to what we see and hear. If we have a shame core, the meaning we assign is often negative and critical.

For example, if I hear my husband slam a door I have options in how I filter that event. One is to think he simply wasn’t paying attention and used too much force in shutting the door. I might check in with him to see if he is ok. I could also assume he was mad at me. Then I could think of some reason he may be mad and start to get angry at him. If I am someone who has a lot of shame, I would have a distorted filter so I would tend to take offense easily. Now we are off the races. All because I made up a story about a slammed door.

This is how shame frequently trips us up in our relationships causing us to imagine harm that is never intended.

Shame also enables us to get in relationships with people who aren’t good for us because it is someone who is more broken than we are and it is all we feel we deserve.

Or, shame keeps us stuck in a bad situation because we don’t have enough esteem to demand something better.

So we live with the bully, the addict, the serial cheater, the abuser.

Shame comes from childhood trauma

If you struggle with shame, somewhere in your childhood you were told or treated like you were not precious and valuable, like you didn’t matter.

Some of my clients who have shame battles are quick to tell me they did not have abusive childhoods.

Shame expert Pia Mellody defines trauma as “anything less than nurturing.”

Childhood trauma, big or small, creates shame

The big T’s of trauma are the overt abuse situations you expect:

beatings, sexual abuse, being told you are stupid.

But there are the little t’s of trauma:

Those are the situations where we didn’t get enough hugs and cuddles.

We had a parent who had to work all the time and couldn’t be there enough.

We were bullied in school or had parents who raged and fought all the time.

We may have had a parent who died or divorced.

Think of anything that made you feel minimized or shoved aside.

So basically, (by this definition) childhood trauma is the human condition because no one had the perfect childhood.

As a result, many of us have developed a shame core that resides just below our unconscious. That shame core infiltrates our unconscious and our conscious and causes us to have thoughts and feelings that inhibit our well being.

A counselor’s struggle with shame

I struggled with shame for most of my young adult life. This shame made me frequently depressed and anxious.

I would have a shame attack and would spend weeks in bed hiding from the world. I even became suicidal several times. No one who has met me in the past few years can believe what a mess I was at one time in my life. But I did learn how to conquer shame and so can you!

Pia Mellody developed a process for inner child work many years ago, but I had never heard about it. I fought for my mental health by using some of the same principles as Pia’s model, but I wish I had known about it because it would have helped me immensely.

To fight shame, you have to confront the lies you tell yourself and replace them with the truth even when you don’t believe it is the truth. You have to look at every story you make up about events and challenge them for truth.

Trauma work isn’t about blaming our parents for being less than perfect. Most parents do the best they can, and so we focus on impact not intent.

Inner Child Work can help you deal with shame

The Marriage Place is now offering a 3-day Breaking Free workshop that involves looking at your childhood trauma and processing it in a way that rewires the way the brain functions. This is a powerful, life-changing three days that can help you deal with addictions, shame, anger, depression and anxiety. Click here for more information.

If you knew you had cancer, you’d treat it, right? Don’t let shame eat away at your chance for a full life. Contact us today and make an appointment online or by calling 972.441.4432

How to Avoid Valentine’s Day Disappointment This Year

howToAvoidValentinesDayDisappointmentTMP

Let me be frank: this upcoming Valentine’s Day may not live up to your expectations.

It rarely ever does.

But what if I told you it could be different?

While a romantic evening with an attentive partner, a wonderful babysitter for the kids, and an endless budget for a gourmet meal might be ideal, Valentine’s Day doesn’t always pan out that way.

Instead of being let down by what might have been, I’d like to challenge each of us to take this Hallmark holiday and turn it into a positive experience, no matter who participates.

Use Valentine’s Day to practice self care.

What makes you tick? Is it time alone reading a book, coffee with friends, or hiking a trail? Pick something that fills you up, and go do it.

I’ve been reading the book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, recently, and it really has me thinking. Ultimately, this book studies the importance of play, and how it’s vital to our adult lives to participate in leisurely activities.

This book asks the question, “What did you love to do as a child?” Think about it for a few minutes. For me it was being the explorer. I loved to ride my bike to a wooded area behind our house and find a secret cave or a quiet place to hang out. It was thrilling. As an adult, that sense of adventure has translated into traveling to exotic locations and experiencing the local cultures.

Children need to play almost as much as they need food and air. It is crucial to their psychological development. Adults tend to think of play time as wasted time. Life is so busy! Who has time to play? But research has shown that when adults play they are more productive, happier and fulfilled in their lives. I believe it is just as important for adults to play as it is for children.

In Play, the author uses the story of Lauren to illustrate his point. Lauren had a successful career, great kids, and a good relationship with her husband. But after a while, her commitments got dull and life became a bore. Instead of running away from her problems, Lauren studied herself. She remembered that as a child, she used to ride horses, so she sought a way to make that part of her life again.

Once a week, Lauren began riding horses at a local barn. And suddenly, the most surprising thing happened: she felt complete and whole in other areas of her life again.

I’m not saying that horseback riding will fix all of your problems, but the point is that Lauren got back to something she enjoyed as a child. Perhaps for you, it’s joining a gym and swimming laps, baking a new dessert, or painting a canvas. See if you can find time in your life to play. Research, and my own experience, shows that finding time to play is an effective way to balance your life.

Some of you are in unhappy marital situations and Valentine’s Day is a dreaded experience. I suggest putting a different spin on things. Use the day that is supposed to celebrate romantic love as a day to celebrate self love. Figure out what would feed your soul and then plan something special for YOU!

If “playing” is not in the cards this Sunday, then here are a couple of other ideas that can keep you from wallowing in self pity.

Spend time with someone who’s lonely on Valentine’s Day.

Maybe you’re lonely, too? Consider making an effort to reach out to someone, and you might be surprised at the lightness of heart it creates in your own life.

Use Valentine’s Day as time to spend it with your kids.

I realize this might not be the most romantic idea for Valentine’s Day, but it’s time spent with people you love, which is generally uplifting.

Plan a date night with yourself for Valentine’s Day.

Call your favorite restaurant and order all your favorite things to be picked up. Don’t forget dessert! Bring your delicious treats home and watch a movie on Netflix or dive into a great read.

If you can’t get past the idea that you’re not spending Valentine’s Day with the person you love, let me give you a tip: Most of the misery that comes out of life comes from how we think about things. It isn’t what happens to us that makes us lonely, miserable or afraid. It’s how we think about what happens to us.

You have the power to choose whether February 14th is a day that makes you sad, or a day that brings you some joy.

It just depends on how you think about it.

It really is that simple.

I hope you choose joy!

By the way, joy is very attractive and finding yours may very well change how you celebrate next year. 

If you’d like help working through difficult emotions or relationship issues, please reach out to us today. We work with many spouses alone when their husband or wife refuses to come to counseling. Many times, even one person willing to make a change can have an impact on a marriage. Make an appointment online, or call us at 972.441.4432.

How I almost ruined my family’s life by asking for a divorce. {A letter to my younger self}


Almost ruined family by asking for a divorce - a letter to my younger selfMany years ago I almost ruined my life.  Even worse, I almost ruined my kids’ lives by seeking a divorce.

There was a dark period in my marriage when I swear I think I lost my mind.  It is the only explanation I have when I look back at my actions and my feelings.  I have a strong need to share this experience even though now it is incredibly humiliating to me, because I see so many people lost in the same mire of complex emotions and making permanent decisions based on temporary insanity.

Let me start at the beginning.

I married my husband when I was 25 years old.  I loved him, but from the very beginning, I questioned if I loved him enough.  I never felt that intensity that often comes when falling in love.  

He was my best friend, and he was a good man.  I knew he would make an excellent husband and father.  But I often worried something was missing on my end.  That worry didn’t stop me from marrying him, though.

The first several years of our marriage were hard.  We struggled with family dynamics and setting appropriate boundaries.  I don’t want to tell too much about our history because it would be painful for family members we both love, but strained relations caused us a lot of marital discord.  It brought out the worst in both of us and highlighted our flaws to each other.  

I started building a lot of resentment toward my husband for what I believed were failures on his part to protect me or stand up for me.  My husband is a conflict avoider, and he tried to make everyone happy which resulted in no one being really happy.  Especially me.  

One day I realized I didn’t love my husband anymore.  In fact, I didn’t even like him anymore.  I wanted a divorce.

Over time, my resentment had turned into contempt, and I was often hostile and angry with him.  It was difficult even showing him basic kindness or respect.

I wanted a divorce, but I was raised believing marriage was forever.  Divorce is very frowned upon in my family.  My religious beliefs also forbade a divorce unless there was infidelity.  

But still the day came when I asked my husband for a divorce, and he surprised me by agreeing.  I had made him so miserable with my snarky, angry disposition for so long, he didn’t see any other way either.  We were a mess.  And we had two young kids who were going to be collateral damage.  

But I was too self-absorbed in my own unhappiness to see what was really happening.  

I wish I could go back now and talk to my younger, clueless self.  I would have a very frank and honest conversation that would be painful to hear, but it would save me years of misery. It would save my husband years of misery as well.  I couldn’t see this when I was in that dark place of my marriage but I see it clearly now.

Here is what I wish I could go back and say to my younger self during those dark days when I tortured myself with “should I stay or should I go” questions.

Kim,

You need to get over yourself.  Seriously.

What gives you the right to put anyone under a microscope and judge him as unworthy of even your respect? You are feeling so superior to your husband as you focus on his every flaw.

Just how do you think you would measure up to the same kind of intense, negative scrutiny?  

This negative lens you use to view your husband has allowed you to rewrite history.

Whether you believe it or not, you chose this person because you loved him.  But even more importantly, you promised to love him every day for the rest of your life.  What you focus on expands.  

Try spending one month–one entire month–and think only about his good qualities.  You will be surprised at how your feelings will change.  

Your marriage doesn’t have a chance if you keep holding on to everything your husband is not.  

When you promised to love, honor and cherish him did you include “as long as you feel like doing it” in your vows?  

Everyone has a “bad deal” in their marriage.  Something they wish they could change.  Your husband also has a bad deal in you!  It is incredibly selfish of you to break your vows because you aren’t feeling in love.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start figuring out how to change your feelings.

Your husband has never wavered in his devotion to you.  Not once.  

And I’ll take that kind of committed love any day over the passionate, high octane, romantic feelings that never last but consume you with intensity.  You may think that sounds boring.  At one time, I thought so too.  

But can you imagine loving someone that intensely and knowing that any moment they can or will fall out of love with you?  And then they are gone?  

You could never be fully yourself with bad breath and bed hair.  

Too much reality and they may lose their feelings and leave you.  

You want the guy who is going to show up for you every single day because he said he would, whether he feels it or not.  I promise you…THAT is being IN love.  

THAT is true, lasting, deep, committed love. Stop believing the lie that it isn’t.

Sure, mature love can feel boring at times.  It can also feel sexless and tired and lonely.  

But it also feels comfortable and secure like a heated blanket on a cold day.  It is what builds a FAMILY.  Family sticks together and makes it work.  You know this.  It’s just right now you are stuck feeling like an angry victim who is trapped in a marriage that isn’t working.  Trust me on this, you are the one who needs the most work.  

Sincerely,

Your older, wiser and happily married self

So many clients tell me they are not “in love” with their spouse.  They say this because they believe the lie that feeling in love is what true love looks like.

Being IN love translates to being in lust.  

Let’s call it what it really is, so we know what we are dealing with.  

There are dozens of reasons why you may not feel in lust with your spouse.

But love has nothing to do with it.  Is it important?  Yes.  

The fastest way to kill passion in any relationship is when neediness shows up in either spouse.  No matter how subtle, any kind of neediness douses the flames of passion.  

Differences in marriage are sexy.  

In many ways, becoming too familiar kills passion.  The only way to keep it alive in a long-term relationship is to allow your partner to be an individual – to have thoughts and feelings that may not align with yours.  

In marriages, we often become too enmeshed with our partners.  

We stop doing things apart.  

We stop the things that form our individuality and allow us to bring outside energy back into the relationship.  

I wasn’t in lust with my husband because I felt he was pushing my needs and wants to the side for his own comfort.  I was angry and resentful.  We had also become enmeshed.  We got busy raising kids and making a living.  We stopped having fun alone and together.

I could acknowledge my husband was a good person and I had feelings of deep affection for him, but I didn’t want to be married anymore.  I convinced myself I didn’t love him in that way a wife should love her husband.  

Now, I know it is hogwash.  

No matter how much you are convinced you married the wrong person, you need to hold off making a decision about divorce until you get a clearer view of how you messed things up.  

Think long and hard about your kids.  If you leave their mom or dad, you will cause them severe damage.

We put so much emphasis on how we are feeling.  But listen up people: our feelings change.  Often.

One minute I love my kids, and the next I want to kill them.  

One day I love my husband, and I appreciate his gifts.  

The next day I feel he should be lucky to have me in his life and I wonder how long I can put up with his flaws.

But I get it.  I was there.  I was at the point of making a permanent, life-long decision based entirely on my feelings.  

The reason I got to that point is because those negative feelings were lasting a long time.

So much time feeling negatively toward my spouse fooled me into thinking the good feelings and passion were gone for good.  That this time, I wouldn’t be able to resurrect my desire to love my husband and even allow him to touch me again.

But not anymore.

Mostly how mature love feels depends directly on how much effort I put into the relationship.  

When I spend time nurturing my marriage, I reap the fruits of my labor.  

When I take my husband for granted, I have to deal with that harvest as well.  

Twenty six years I ago I promised to love him forever.  I have decided to keep that promise.

If my story resonates with you, you are in what we call a “one up position.”  

You are feeling superior to your spouse.  It isn’t a nice place to be, and you aren’t being very nice either.  This is what it means to be selfish and self-absorbed.  

The only way to get out of this place is humility.  

You need a big dose of honesty!  And it will be painful to see.  

You will fight to justify and defend your position.

You will get angry.  

But you are hurting people and trying to rationalize it by focusing on how you deserve to be happy, even at the expense of your spouse and your children.  

If you continue down this path, you will very likely come to your senses one day and wonder how you threw it all away.  

You will feel guilt and remorse but the damage will be done.  

You will be divorced and your spouse will probably move on without you.  

Your kids will experience childhood trauma that will adversely influence the decisions they make as adults.  

All because you acted on your feelings instead of your common sense.  

If you are miserable enough in your marriage to want to leave, use everything in your power to save it first.  Find a good marriage counselor who will tell you the truth even if it hurts.  

You owe it to the person you promised to love forever to at the very least, do intensive counseling.  

Even if you feel it is hopeless.  

Even if it is expensive and you think you can’t afford the costs.  

You have no excuses.   

Contact The Marriage Place for marriage counseling–alone or with your spouse today.  Appointments can be made online or by calling 972.441.4432.

Other articles of note:

Psychology Today: The impact of divorce on children and adolescence 

Focus on the Family: How could divorce affect my children?

Engage with Love: Your spouse wants a divorce and you don’t.

Can You Handle The Truth? Taking Criticism Well

how to take criticism - give and receive feedback in a relationship without shame or bullying

Do you know how to hear feedback with grace?

There was a time when I couldn’t hear criticism.

I was easily offended and very defensive.

When someone tried to tell me I was wrong or had hurt them in some way, I would immediately justify my actions, minimize them or dispute the facts.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe I had flaws. I would frequently admit to being very flawed. You can sound very noble as you paint yourself with broad strokes of imperfection but the grit is in the details.

I could put someone else under a microscope but wanted to keep my own specific transgressions at a distance.

Even just writing this makes me feel, well, yuck.

Admitting you are flawed is very different than holding yourself accountable for those flaws. Click To Tweet

I was so defensive because I had a very fragile sense of my own worth.

When someone gave me tough criticism, I sank into despair.

I easily dropped into toxic shame–that place where I felt worthless and broken.

To avoid feeling so badly, I avoided honest feedback.

How to take criticism, criticism in marriage, criticism in relationships

I didn’t realize then how self-indulgent it is to go to toxic shame.

Think about it: if someone tells you something about yourself you don’t like, and you sink into despair, you still aren’t holding yourself accountable. You are beating yourself up but not changing anything.

In essence, you are sending out the message that you are too fragile for the truth. You are either expecting those around you to soothe you and minimize your actions or enabling them to avoid confronting you. Or both.

Married couples who can’t take criticism land in my office all the time.

Couples dance these same steps over and over. I see it in my office. Charles and Mindy are a particular couple I have in mind. (Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.)

Charles is a bully. He is big and loud.

When something doesn’t go the way he thinks it should, he yells and curses until his family caves.

Mindy is scared of Charles. Not physically–as far as I know, he has never raised his hand to anyone. But his yelling is just as intimidating to his family.

Charles is like a lot of bullies. He is very charming and playful when he isn’t raging. He comes across like a big, lovable teddy bear–until he shows his claws.

And this is how he justifies his bad behavior.  Since only his family sees this other side of him,  he is well liked by everyone. He often reasons that his family is overly sensitive because he has no problems with anyone else.

Standing up to a bully

After working with Mindy, she was finally able to stand up to Charles. She stopped letting him have his way and when he would yell, she would set limits on how much she was exposed to that behavior. This infuriated Charles even more.  He said he felt attacked and that Mindy was controlling him!

When Mindy told him he was a bully and why, instead of looking at his behavior and feeling remorse, he pouted. He moped around the house for days. He gave everyone the silent treatment.

He took every opportunity to let everyone know that he was apparently a big, bad ogre. Sometimes he appeared to get it and would cry and ask her why she stayed with him if he was so bad. He did everything but actually change his actions.

See the self-indulgence? When you wrong someone, true remorse says, “I’m so sorry. What can I do to make you feel better?”

Charles is saying “If what you say is true, I’m a terrible person. What can you do to make me feel better?”

Being able to hear the truth is a gift you give yourself and those you love. Click To Tweet

Defensiveness breeds shamelessness.

Giving and receiving feedback increases intimacy in such a powerful way. I cannot underestimate the importance.

Charles and Mindy will never have a truly intimate relationship until Charles can hear what Mindy is trying to tell him AND he holds himself accountable for it.

Right now, Mindy is willing to wait and see if Charles can let go of his defense mechanisms and allow himself to be vulnerable, and if he will accept her vulnerability. I don’t know how long she will wait in this holding pattern.

Charles is on borrowed time but it doesn’t have to be that way. He is risking losing everything he holds dear just because he will not hear the truth.

Are you married to someone who can’t take criticism?

If you are married to someone who cannot hear the truth, I feel particularly bad for you. That’s a tough situation. But you aren’t stuck.  Mindy is learning how to set limits on bad behavior.

There is more conflict, but Mindy is getting stronger each day. One day, I believe Charles will have to face the truth or face living alone. But Mindy is more at peace today than any other time in her marriage. Only she can decide if that is good enough.

You need to be able to hear feedback to keep you grounded.  Otherwise, you will become shameless.

Shameless people are obnoxious, intrusive, immature people.

The first person who comes to mind when I think of shameless is Donald Trump. He offends in outrageous ways. Whether you love or hate him, you know he is offensive.  He needs someone in his life who is willing to tell him the truth and set loving limits on his outrageous behavior.

How a therapist learned to receive criticism and feedback

I learned how to hear criticism and it completely changed my life. It taught me how to be more relational to others, including towards my husband. It also taught me how to be more relational to myself! I no longer dip into toxic shame on a regular basis. I have learned to accept that I am imperfect and it is ok to be imperfect.

Giving and receiving feedback takes skill and practice. Click To Tweet

I learned how to give feedback in my therapy training, but I didn’t learn how to receive it until a therapist confronted me. It was ugly. But it was also life-changing.

How to give feedback well

When giving feedback, always ask if someone is willing and ready to hear your opinion. Never force your feedback on anyone.

Once they are ready for it, state your feedback without a lot of emotion.  It’s so much easier to hear tough criticism if you aren’t angry when you speak your truth.  Just state the facts and do so without judgement.

And no name calling, please!  Not if you want to give the person on the receiving end even a remote chance of hearing you.

How to receive feedback well

When receiving feedback, fight the urge to defend, minimize or rationalize.  Just hear them.

Then run it through 3 filters:

Is it true?

Is it untrue?

Is it questionable?

If it is questionable, find out more information.  Ask for examples. Once I have more information, I then have ask myself again if it is true or untrue.

If it is true, make amends if you can and be gentle with yourself.  You are human and you are going to mess up.

If it is untrue, step back emotionally.  Do not try and convince the feedback giver they are mistaken.  They are allowed their perspective. When I experience this, I detach my emotions and I also detach from convincing the other person it is untrue.  They are allowed their own opinion and perspective. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

If the person giving the feedback has been hurt by your actions or attitude because they misunderstood or misinterpreted the situation, gently let them know you had no intention to hurt them.

Staying accountable with new skills

I never want to go back to the self-indulged ducking and dodging that kept me blind to how others saw me. To make sure I don’t go back, I have people in my life who hold me accountable.

When I hear, “Are you open to some feedback?” I view it as a gift. Even though what I’m about to hear may be painful, seeing how someone else is viewing me is priceless. When I hear feedback, I go through the process I described above.  I ask myself, “Is it true?  Is it untrue?  Is it questionable?”

Instead of being defensive, I brace myself and hang on for the deep dive in the intimacy pool. I listen for the truth in what they are telling me, and I remind myself it is ok to be imperfect.

I make amends when and where I can and I resolve to do it better next time. Then I thank God for putting people in my life who will tell me the truth.

This process keeps me grounded. It keeps me from being shameless.  It keeps me relational so that the people in my life feel closer to me.  I’m willing to hear their truth.

As a result, I feel stronger and more secure.

My relationships are closer and more intimate. And now, I am very adept at appropriately giving honest feedback to others. And that’s a gift too! Because I am no longer putting up with bad behavior or building resentment toward others.

Are you defensive when it comes to criticism?

If you are the person who is defensive, I know how you feel. It can be scary to admit you have an ugly side. But guess what? Everyone has an ugly side. Not looking at it only allows your ugly to get uglier.

Be brave. Clean yourself up. Wash off the shamelessness. When your family sees who you really are, chances are they will love you more not less.

They may stay where they are now because they are afraid or intimidated, but that isn’t love and intimacy. And somewhere inside of you, you know that. It feels cheap because it is​ cheap.

Come out from behind your wall and see if they love you more. It is possible you will be rejected. But that’s why intimacy is so messy and scary and real. It is unpredictable and involves other flawed human beings. All you can do is show up as your best self. But the reward is worth the risk.

I promise.

There’s help for learning how to manage criticism and grow intimacy in relationships

We can help if you or someone you are in relationship with can’t hear the truth. Contact us here.

Our coaches and counselors are trained in telling you the things about yourself that others see but don’t feel safe to tell you. We do this with compassion and without judgment–and then we will hold you accountable. That’s our gift to you.

See also: 4 Ways to Shut Out Your Spouse (including bullying and the silent treatment) and When Your Spouse Always Gets Their Way & What the Wall Street Journal has to say about this topic.