When a Spouse is Addicted to Drugs…

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

This was supposed to be a nice visit to a couple’s house for lunch.  However it turned into a rather uncomfortable setting as we witnessed the troubling transformation of a generally delightful woman.  She had already appeared a little agitated, but her grumbling about how worthless her husband was escalated into her yelling, “shut your face, you worthless piece of  ****.”   I searched for a sign that my husband was ready to leave as much as I was.  The husband, clearly embarrassed, explained that his wife was behaving that way because “that’s how she gets when she’s out of her drugs.”   Ultimately, we stayed a bit longer, attempting to offer some comfort and understanding.

As a respected member of her church, this typically charming woman was the perfect hostess in most situations.  However she had developed a dependency on her prescription pain medication that resulted in her behaving like many others who are

addicted to illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine.  Her craving for relief from the pain and suffering of drug withdrawals dominated her ability to conduct herself rationally.

  • WHY HELP IS NOT SOUGHT

Similar situations are being echoed in many households where a spouse has become addicted to prescription medication.  Unfortunately many of these families are too embarrassed to seek help.  There are also growing numbers of addicts who remain in denial about their struggle with over usage and dependency on their prescribed medication.  I believe that this state of denial is fueled by the fact that their drugs have been initially prescribed by doctors.  However the burden that this type of avoidance places on a relationship can appear to be unbearable.  Unfortunately many couples view divorce as the only real solution.

Although there is awareness in the medical field at large of this growing problem, there is much to be done in order to address it.  A report by Dr. Barbara Ray expresses great concern – especially for the so-called baby boomer generation.  In many cases, these are the older married couples who are battling with prescription drug abuse that has often been initiated through misdiagnoses.

  • UNDERSTANDING THE REAL ISSUES

Dr.  Ray’s report includes the following serious concern:  Clinical reports of substance-related health problems among older adults speak to the dangers of overdose, dangerous combinations of therapeutic drugs, and misdiagnosis of drug-induced mental confusion as early dementia. Misdiagnosis of drug-induced health problems may trigger prescribing of still more drugs. To date, there are no population-based estimates of the size of this problem, but there are increasing indications that drug-related health problems will be at unprecedented levels in the baby boom generation (born from 1946 to 1964) as it begins to reach Medicare eligibility in the year 2012http://www.samhsa.gov/data/aging/chap2.htm

When facing a situation where a spouse is clearly addicted to prescription medication, it may be very difficult to accept this addiction is just as serious as someone who is battling with street drugs.  Quite often the spouses view their partners as people who are simply not taking responsibility for their actions.  Concerned spouses will do much better to realize that these drugs are debilitating and can greatly hinder the ability to have a controlled response.  In other words, their loved ones may be under the influence of the drug in ways that are difficult to assess without professional intervention.

One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is facing the shame that is realized with those who finally admit their addiction.  In his eye opening book about recovery from addiction, Dr. Aaron Jamal gives readers a candid look at the journey of recovery that addicts often face.  As an addictions counselor, Dr. Jamal offers insight into the mindset of many addicts struggling to regain sobriety.  In regards to the often accompanying sense of shame, Dr. Jamal’s book, Preserved for Greatness includes the following: The shame-bound disease/sin that is associated with addiction has as much to do with what the addict is willing to do for the drug of choice as the dangers surrounding the consumption of the drug. Over and over again we heard of the shameful acts that each person participated in for the sake of “getting another hit” and with each of these stories was a clear and obvious attitude of shame.”

  • IN CONCLUSION

During this time, the concerned spouse needs to seek support and strength to help the addicted partner find effective treatment and recovery.  The love and concern for a spouse is needed and may be tested in ways unimaginable.  However, it is important to realize that people generally do not choose to become addicted.  Likewise drug addicts need love, understanding, forgiveness, much prayer and help to make the choice to overcome the addiction.

*If someone you know may be abusing or addicted to prescription drugs, speak up right away. Resources such as SAMHSA’s Treatment Referral Line, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD), or http://www.SAMHSA.gov/treatment are available to help anyone, at any time.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES….

  • Can Marriage survive the effects of substance abuse?

In a small room, a young lady sits with her face in her hands crying. She does not even look up to acknowledge me as I enter the room. She appears afraid and shame ridden. I offered some tissue and waited for some of the emotion to subside before beginning our session.
I asked if she would like a cup of water and she declined but said, “I can’t believe I did …” her voice trails off as she tries to compose herself.  “I really blew it this time… and I deserve whatever happens to me.” she said as she put on her sunglasses. I told her that I would prefer that she not hide her eyes and insisted that she remove her sunglasses. She complied and then looked up at me… “You just don’t know how bad this is…” she said shaking her head in disgust.

“Why don’t you take your time and tell me what you mean.” I said positioning a pad in front of me to take notes. “You can’t tell this to anyone!” She said while appearing to be gripped by fear.  “I would never tell anyone about this or anything else we are about to share. However, I want you to know that this is probably not the first time I have heard something like what you are going to share.  I just don’t want to interrupt you and so I will make notes for me while you speak.” I said.

“Well it’s the first time for me… I can’t do this… this has to stop! I need some help!” she said crying hysterically. “That’s why we are here. Now let’s begin this journey.” I said as we initiated this healing process on her journey of recovery.

This woman was one of more than 1,200 participants we would serve over the next 18 months. However, much of the damage had already been done to their families, marriages, jobs, and all had experienced an encounter with law enforcement for drug related offenses.

What is substance abuse?

Medline’s Medical Encyclopedia defines Substance abuse as the use of illicit drugs or the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are indicated or in a manner or in quantities other than directed.” However, substance abuse is evolving as inhalants and solvents are used for their mood altering effects.

For this article my focus will briefly target the more severe models of abuse that hijack marital relationships and threaten to destroy their way of life and marriage.

Many of the couples that I have tried to help have come as a last attempt to salvage what little is left of their marriage.  There is always multiple perspectives of the extent of the abuse, the depths of its damage, the cost to the family, and consequences that have been shared. Let me clarify that addiction is inherently selfish. People don’t indulge in substance use to help others. It may have many different provocations or reasons to begin. However, once the dependency is active, the addict is solely interested in self-gratification.

  • An Insatiable Appetite for Self Gratification

Self centeredness is among the most destructive elements of the effect of substance abuse on marriage. Couples vow to stay together through sickness and health but addicts don’t require the spouse to engage in their abuse. Many of them grow isolated from their spouse and become committed to a totally different social network of co-addicts. Some suffer from co-occurring dependencies.  Most have crossed moral and ethical lines in order to acquire drugs and to continue feeding their habit or to reach new levels of intensity.  Their pursuits rarely give into reason because much of their reasoning skills have been hijacked by the drug and environment.

In a room filled with self-proclaimed users I asked the question: “How many of you have done things that were unthinkable before you started using?” Everyone in the room raised their hand. I asked a second question: “How many of you did those things with people that were strangers?” Again the room was filled with raised hands. Finally, I asked:“How many of you considered what this might do to your loved ones while you were in the midst of those unthinkable acts?” This time the room had only a few hands that went up. I asked those few that raised their hands; “Did you still choose to get high even though you knew it would hurt your loved ones?” Sadly, they each answered “Yes.”

  •  “I can’t believe I did that”

Regardless of the “drug of choice” each person usually has a story that includes deception, shame, reckless behavior, and escapism. In addition to those dynamics and long before the addict has reached a point of exhausting bank accounts, savings, and family valuables there are often a litany of challenges that occur in the relationship. Often the addict has encountered severe depression as a result of a traumatic experiences such as the loss of a loved one, rape, loss of a job, career ending injury, etc.

Coping with the after effects of those traumatic occurrences without professional guidance and support is far too often a perfect setting for gateway drugs to be introduced. Sometimes even the pharmaceutical solutions are an introduction to this altered existence when they are not taken as prescribed. In other situations, there maybe someone sharing their plight with some peer or friend and the peer says “Have you ever tried…” and before you know it, you are on your way toward opening the door to something that will isolate you from your spouse, your faith, your children, your moral code and anything else of value.

Often the spouse of the substance abuser feels betrayed and deceived once they discover their spouse has a real problem with substance abuse. Some even blame themselves for what happened. Others have considered participating with the spouse rather than lose them to the new social network they have engaged in. Some are in denial because their spouse doesn’t look as bad as the horrible pictures they’ve seen on TV. However, many of the people that I have counseled admit they are even worse than their spouses think they are. They have done things they can’t even mention.

  • Get the help you need!

If this describes you in any way at all you can be encouraged that there is hope for you and your marriage. It will probably not happen without the inclusion of a support system and that will differ based on the type of issues you face and the degree of your dependency.

Personally, I have not witnessed significant levels of sustained sobriety following lengthy seasons of abuse without a combination of Spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical therapeutic assistance.  Holistic models appear to be the most effective. Additionally, many of the models have implemented strategies that are flexible enough to facilitate your healing process without lengthy periods of being isolated from your spouse.  However, the process of resetting the necessary disciplines and boundaries is not an overnight process. It is not just a mental or a physical remedy.

Healing Fractured Lives

Psychospirituality is an alternative method assisting the recovering addict on his/her journey of recovery.   Dr. Margaret Jamal explains the term psychospirituality in her book, Beware of Wolves in the Church, as follows: “The term psycho-spiritual is one that combines the two words- psychological and spiritual.  The psychological stresses of life tend to precede the decision to seek spiritual resolve that is believed to be beyond our personal control.    Psycho –spiritual studies (while still in infancy) indicate that an intersection of psychological treatment with spiritual intervention can produce significantly favorable outcomes.”  Most methods have stopped short of proclaiming promises of healing. If you only define healing as abstaining from the abusive substance and behavior then you are probably not representing the “whole problem.”

What is most important is for you to get help today! Do not procrastinate or put off tapping into resources that are intended to help you. If you are the spouse of someone struggling with this, there are programs that are designed to help you and address the questions and voids that you have been struggling with.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (www.samhsa.gov) is a great resource for people that are seeking solutions for this prevalent issue.  National Institute on Chemical Dependency is also a great source of information and resources. Whatever, your choice, it is best to choose to engage with a support system as quickly as possible. Stop the advancement of this degenerative cancer on your marriage.

You may have to use the leveraged threat of divorce to urge your spouse to seek help. However, be very careful of what and to what extent you include people that are not bound to confidentiality standards. Unfortunately, the stigmatization of those struggling with addiction is very real. It can affect your ability to gain employment, leave your home vulnerable for liabilities and/ or become a weight for your children to bear throughout their school aged years.

Intimacy Beyond Sexual Abuse

Join our online discussion about this topic.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

For years, my family would refer to me as the one “who smells everything.”  From smelling my food before eating it to being able to find the source of foul odors, I have been the one to call.  I finally realized that my keen sense of smell was directly linked to my memories of sexual abuse as a child.  This sensitivity to odors facilitated some of the triggers that occurred while sharing intimacy with my husband.  Without the ability to separate the good from the bad, there were times when our lovemaking crumbled into frustration and tears.  I would experience flashbacks so vivid that I would need to put on my glasses or be in a lighted area so that I could clearly see that it was my husband in front of me.

Other areas of triggers included certain types of touching, certain foods and the one that was most challenging- the timing.  Because I was often awakened from sleep by the man who began molesting me, my husband had to deal with my harsh response to his attempt to wake me up to engage in intimacy.  No matter how gentle his approach, I would often respond startled and sometimes even angry.   My particular issue has been compounded by the fact that my experience with sexual abuse included re-victimizationRe-victimization from child sexual abuse is when someone experiences multiple instances of sexual assaults from various perpetrators at different times.

I express my own encounters with re-victimization from child sexual abuse through adulthood in somewhat graphic detail in my book, “When Girls Don’t Tell.”  I include specific details in my book because my counseling revealed that many women and girls have experienced this without realizing it.  Consequently, their marriages suffer largely due to their not recognizing or acknowledging their own extent of victimization.

The Scriptures teach that we should meditate on whatever is good.  I was not able to do that at first because I did not have enough “good” that was suitable for reflection.  After completing my book, “When Girls Don’t Tell”, I began to experience the relief that comes with being able to confront those issues of abuse that can be haunting and hold your thoughts hostage.

Ultimately, my husband’s patience coupled with my faith in God, helped me to replace the bad memories with new good experiences to fill my thoughts.  Yet I remain aware that recovery from sexual abuse is a journey rather than a destiny.  I believe that couples who recognize this will have a great chance (with the help of the Holy Spirit) with overcoming the painful challenges and enjoying a happy and fruitful marriage.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

During a season of trust and peace, I found myself reaching out to touch my wife in a non-sexual way. WeImage needed to rebuild a level of intimacy that was real and uninfected by the abuse she encountered as a child and later on even as an adult. We had long talks and we laughed out loud at stories of our past. We prayed and we cried. We wrote to each other when talking seemed to fail our attempts at explaining what we felt.

To quiet the noise adding to the stress and challenges of working on our marriage, I would often retreat to my music, sports or writing. Confronting my own fears of being incompetent to help the woman I love became an issue as well. However, with the help of music and our interactive writing I began to refocus and use my God-given talents.

Blessed to be able to write and express our thoughts, we both began to blog and write books. I expressed how proud I was of the incredible courage and strength she showed in sharing her story with the whole world in her book “When Girls Don’t Tell”. Our children and I also assured her that her past had not defined her and that her story was still being written with the best still to come.

We still struggle at times in our communications. There are still times when there appears to be over Imagereactions and outbursts that I cannot explain. At times it appears as though there is an entity translating what is being said into something other than what is intended. Sometimes I fail to be sensitive or attentive enough to address her needs and have to slap myself out of dwelling on my own disappointment. I try to be both empathic and strong while remembering that the constant reassurances that she needs are not evidence of my faults but evidence of the hard work required for this marriage.

I can tell you now without any regrets that the hard work was and is worth it. I am blessed to be in the incredible marriage I have with my wife. I enjoy her verbal guidance that helps me to understand what is going on with my wife. I am improving in my listening skills and constantly pray for wisdom.  However, I am keenly aware that my marriage is not the norm. Due to the vast number of spouses that go through life shrouded in secrecy and shame about the hideous sexual crimes that robbed their innocence and tainted their view of sex, our marriage represents a small minority.

With sexual assaults at alarming rates within our homes, prisons, military and school settings, it is crucial to develop effective strategies about handling the societal impact of this crime with such long term effects. Give considerations to some of the facts surrounding this issue:

About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 100 men responded with “yes” when asked whether they experienced sexual Imagetrauma during their military service. This number only represents veterans that sought services from the V.H.A. Considering the previous statement, it is not difficult to imagine that these numbers probably under represent the extent of this problem.

In our American culture, we place a great premium on men behaving with aggression in sports, military, business, politics and in the protection of his family. However, when that aggression goes awry and turns into violent sexual assaults against family members or peers, it is that same American culture that often crucifies the man. Allow me to clarify that it is not my position to excuse any sexual violence perpetrated against the family or anyone. However, the broad strokes of legal remedies rarely provide strategies that effectively prevent these episodes of assault nor do they treat the offender and victims for the mental disorders they are struggling with afterwards.

ImageWhat is also heartrending is that same aggression has been fostered in many of our daughters that have also become violent and sexual predators as well. One of the fastest growing populations in our prisons today are our young women. These women also make up a large portion of those sexually assaulting and re-victimizing prisoners in state prisons.

Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer reported in a study that “sexual assault crimes committed within our correctional facilities can have devastating consequences for individual victims and for communities far beyond our jails and prisons,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement.

Unfortunately those devastating consequences have contributed to a multitude of married couples that struggle with intimacy issues as a result of sexual abuse.  The scope of that abuse is varied and seriously under-reported.  Additionally, it would be impossible to provide a” one size fits all” solution for this problem. My hope in this article is to provide insight and hope on a very small scale in comparison to the size of this problem.

Having counseled a large number of men and women, I found sexual abuse occurrences almost common Imageplace in the childhood of many of those I served as well as in adulthood of those that served prison terms. Those giving voice to this problem must be amplified in order to provide the appropriate level of resources and strategies aimed at preventing sexual abuse and the long term effects of this trauma.

For the sustainability of our legacy and generations to come, we must strive to provide comprehensive strategies for healing and effective interventions to help these survivors to avert their becoming offenders or self destructive.

Meredith Maran shares in her well written article “When a Sexually Abused Child Weds”
“Untreated sexual abuse,” says Padma Moyer, MFCC, a San Francisco therapist who works with adults survivors of incest, “is a time bomb. Sometimes it ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it. But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion.”

When you add these survivors to the populations of military and/or prison populations it often increases their probability of becoming re-victimized. My wife, Dr. Margaret Jamal, frames this phenomenon in her book “When Girls Don’t Tell” as Revictimization.

Maran also shares that “many women who were abused perpetuate the cycle, not necessarily by molesting their children, but by putting them at risk. “If a female survivor’s feelings and memories remain unconscious,” says Ms. Moyer ,”and she doesn’t examine the family dynamic in which she grew up, she may choose a husband like her perpetrator, and create a family like her own family. In that way, she may inadvertently lay the groundwork for her children to be abused.”

Additionally, Maran profiles this tragic truth: “Many incest survivors have “flashbacks” while making love, says Julie Robbins, LCSW, a therapist specializing in child and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Women who had orgasms while being abused as children may punish their bodies for “enjoying” the abuse, becoming non-orgasmic, obese, or anorexic as adults, she says.”

For some, the whole basis for trusting someone has been shattered and their anger, still unresolved, seems to erupt unprovoked at their spouse. For others, their identities have been shattered to the point that they lack the ability to integrate into social settings without violent outbursts of profanity and behavior that erupts like a nuclear bomb.

Marital Intimacy is facilitated through selflessness. Often the woman or man that was abused has developed patterns of distrust for every partner including themselves. Healing is possible and trust can and must be restored. However,  both require unconditional love and patience. Many require professional help and/or peer group settings to help them address nightmares, flashbacks and identity issues as well.

As a Christian that is extremely grateful for the innumerable amount of answered prayers that my Heavenly Father continues to facilitate,  I recommend prayer as a constant for any strategy to deal with restoring intimacy beyond sexual abuse. Personally, I believe that it is easier to place your hope into your Creator than in people that we often place unrealistic expectations on. God will not disappoint and is the healing balm you need to address this very deeply rooted issue.

http://maketheconnection.net/conditions/military-sexual-trauma

http://www.amazon.com/When-Girls-Dont-Tell-Revictimization/dp/1456599097/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1338128142&sr=8-6

http://www.meredithmaran.com/mag_bride_abused.htm

Marriage bed undefiled – but is it sexually gratifying?

Click to listen to the live discussion about this topic.

 

 

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

For those who have attempted to model their marriage relationships in harmony with biblical precepts, Paul offers some guidance for couples: , because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. [1Cor. 7:2-3] NKJV

Paul is making it very clear the need to avoid sexual temptation and sexual immorality by submitting to regular sexual relationships for the gratification of your spouse. Since procreation would inherently produces terms of abstinence due to the pregnant status of the wife, sex is not an exclusive practice for procreation. His target is clearly to avoid sexual immorality.

However, if there is no gratification with regard to the intimacy should either spouse be allowed to venture outside of the marriage for gratification? The Bible calls sex outside of marriage to be adulterous and immoral, strictly forbidding both. On the other hand, the church has remained almost silent with regard to the issue of sexual gratification.

According to the Bible, neither the wife or husband has the right to deprive the other of sexual relations:  “ 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, … so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” NKJV [1 Cor. 7:4-5]  It is clear that this strategy is to avoid the pitfalls of sexual immorality.

Neither of these references provide the standards for what is “regular” or suggests gratification as mandatory. However, Paul describes love as patient and kind.  Additionally, he tells us that it is not rude or self-seeking, and declares that love always protects and always perseveres.

For those that are wondering why did I go to the subject of love while framing sexual relationships, I remember when it was common to refer to these relationships as “making love.”  The fact that the Holy Bible gives permission for liberty in this relationship; “4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled;” NKJV [Hebrews 13:4] this liberty does not frame the methods or guidelines for gratification.

In this world where sexual appetites have been framed through hyper exposure to pornographic images and videos as well as R-rated TV, it is difficult to enter into a discussion about gratification and keep the discussion lined up with God.  However, the fundamental need within a marriage is intimacy and it should be the highlight of what happens behind closed bedroom doors.

Talk to me…

Since what happens in the “marriage bed” is undefiled therefore unregulated I am
avoiding any attempt to regulate behavior patterns or using a broad stroke to explain sexual tendencies. On the other hand, I think that most couples that are experiencing gratification with regularity have developed a pattern of empathic communication. Historically, men have been extremely erotically responsive to verbal stimulation. That insight confounds me as to why some wives think they should not be required to tell their husbands how to please them.

 Pillows don’t talk, but people should…

The idea that a man is to somehow know and understand the things you would prefer at a given time is probably as bad as expecting a restaurant to serve you a delicious meal with no guidance about what you like. They may be a great chef or cook, but without guidance for your preferences, you will almost certainly settle for something less than what you really want.

Likewise, your spouse may be an excellent, attentive and sensitive partner. However, without verbal guidance or affirmation, intimacy becomes a guessing game that is following unreliable visual indicators. This can often leave the spouse settling for something other than what they really want.

I have heard of men talking of episodes with prostitutes stating that what they appreciate most is the verbal flirtation and affirmation that they receive from them. It is not sinful for a wife to affirm or guide her husband towards her own gratification. It is, however, sound advice to communicate with positive affirmation rather than negative criticism.

With the marketing campaigns of Viagra, lubricants and other male enhancement drugs on the market there is an exceptional emphasis on performance in intimate settings. However, if that performance mimics actors and actresses playing roles in a sexually oriented movie, there is a probability that expectations will be unrealistic and intimacy will be superficial at best.

Teach me tonight…

Using a broad stroke in this one instance, I believe a deeper gratification comes from a far more pure and sensitive cuddling type of selfless expression of intimacy. The Bible clearly states “It is better to give than receive” and I am convinced that this is the route toward a higher grade of gratification. Coupled with the proper balance of communication, liberty and atmosphere, I believe that any married couple can explore new heights of gratification that are reserved for those that are committed to pleasing their spouse.

  • IN CONCLUSION

If you are looking to stir up the flames of passion in your marriage you might start by talking openly and frankly about the things that you know will work best. Additionally, it may be helpful to discuss the things you’ve considered but never wanted to actually try.  Many of those topics will perk things up just talking about them. They may still never be actually acted upon but the openness of your communication will be headed in the right direction.  Gratification will follow open and honest communication. Affirming guidance during intimacy will insure more consistent and targeted outcomes toward satisfaction. “And that’s all I have to say bout that.”

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Although Paul states that it is better to marry than to burn [1 Cor 7:8], it appears that there is too much burning going on even within the marriage.  I am talking about burning with the desire for sexual gratification.  With this in mind, I believe that it is appropriate to consider that the gratification should go for both the man and the woman.

Fake It Until You Make – Why Some Men Visit Prostitutes

It has been acceptable for the wife to fake it as long as the husband can make it.   Well, I for one believe that the lack of mutual gratification may be one of the greatest contributors to the high divorce rate.

Even when there is unrest and financial stress, taking time out for some serious intimacy can help clear the mind long enough to realize that there are still options.
At least you may realize that you still have something to provoke a good “Praise the Lord!”  But if you deny each other of sexual gratification because you feel too much stress or are too tired from work, etc. it stands to reason one of you will begin to resent the source that is depriving you.  What is even worse is when your spouse concludes that you are simply not interested in making love anymore.

My husband and I discussed a program where women were sharing about faking gratification for various reasons.  Almost immediately, I began sounding my disapproval of such practices.  However my husband shared that one “expert” explained how their research uncovered that men favored prostitutes because they were willing and eager to do that very thing.  They affirmed and faked gratification because they realize how much it pleased their clients.  While I still do not advocate pretending sexual gratification that does not exist, I strongly encourage both parties to seek and even pray for ways to provide the type of intimacy that is truly mutually gratifying.

Making Adjustments

It has been helpful for me and my husband to take time to discuss what we would like from each other. This is a time when we both discuss what we prefer in our intimacy.  It is also a time when we invite each other to share what we would like to adjust in order to make our relationship even more gratifying.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I have a few suggestions if you try making a date to discuss your intimacy preferences.  1) Decide not to suggest adding another person to the equation.  Despite how the media glamorizes this, it is hardly a factor that will build a healthy marriage.   2) Avoid making response like, “yuck”, “are you kidding me?”, “that’s too weird” or “the devil is a lie”.  I strongly doubt that these types of statements will encourage more of intimacy discussions.  However seeking to uncover and address any genuine sexual frustration with empathy and compassion may do a great deal to increase the quality of any relationship.  I strongly believe that keeping the marriage bed undefiled, and mutually sexually gratifying will go a long way in sustaining a good marriage.

Vote on theTop Cause for Discontent in Relationships

Avoiding the Dangers of Discontentment in a Relationship

PLAN TO JOIN THE LIVE DUSCUSSION ONLINE ABOUT HIS TOPIC ON TUESDAY NIGHT AT 6:30 PST/ 7:30 MST/ 8:30 CST/ 9:30 EST/ CLICK HERE: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/idome2/2012/03/14/avoiding-the-dangers-of-discontentment-in-relationships

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Mick Jagger delivered a song that I remember embracing many years ago.  Unfortunately, too many couples are singing that song today.  It’s “I can’t get no satisfaction…but I tried and I tried and I tried.  I CAN’T GET NO…”

Feeling like there is no satisfaction in a relationship can quickly lead to an attitude of discontentment.  Discontentment is being unhappy and annoyed with a situation.  This attitude of discontentment can give way to restlessness, which may ultimately lead to wandering in dangerous relationship territory.  The dangerous territory that I am alluding to is the area of exploring excitement and stimulation outside of the committed relationship.   When satisfactory stimulation continues to happen from other sources (other than your spouse) you may seriously question the value of your present relationship.

I recently listened to a married woman express how much she appreciated the way another man was so thoughtful and interesting.  She added how she wished that her husband was more like him.  This is what I would consider dangerous territory of discontentment.  Thinking that you would be better off with something else only feeds thoughts of discontentment.  As these thoughts are nurtured, they may lead to reckless actions that can cause great damage to a relationship.

  • WHEN YOU FEEL YOU JUST GOTTA GO

Many years ago, I realized that I had a pattern of restlessness that resulted in my taking reckless, impromptu excursions.  I would end up in different cities, hotels and even pressed my way through to Canada in one such episode.  I began these escapes while I was single, but they continued into my marriage.

I actually had not realized that I had a seasonal pattern until my mother warned my husband to look out for it.  It was good that my husband loved me and trusted our love for each other, because he was prepared to respond when the urge hit me.  I remember one episode as if it were just last week.

My husband had come home from a gig.  For those who may not know my husband, Dr. Aaron Jamal is also an accomplished musician, former recording artist, author, ordained minister and counselor, etc.  Anyway, my husband dragged himself into the house early in the morning after driving from his gig and declared that he was tired and needed some sleep.  Well, being the morning person that I am, I announced that I wanted to go out.  I also decided that it was a good time to let him know how I have been feeling neglected and that I was tired of being cooped up in the house.  I wanted attention and was discontented with my treatment.  In short, it was the season for me to take flight.

My weary husband mustered up enough energy to ask me to wait until he got some rest to continue the conversation.  But I was already too restless to wait.  His response was one that made me think 1) I married a crazy man and 2) Maybe I can wait just a bit until my husband has rested.

  • IT PAYS TO KNOW YOUR SPOUSE

My husband knew that I had issues with wrinkles in my clothes and that I had a routine of ironing my clothes before getting dressed.  After I reached for the iron, he somehow ripped the cord from the base so I could not plug it in.  This is the moment that I thought he might be a bit crazy.  At the same time, this only made me even more determined to leave
so I announced that I would get away with wrinkles if I had to.

Still too tired to argue, my husband was thinking about the best way to keep me from going off somewhere.   We had a chair that could be converted into a sleeper which we made available for guests.  My quick thinking husband got enough strength to flip out the chair and drag it in front of the door where he dropped into an exhausted heap.  His weight was too much for me to move and his action was so unexpected that I was amused enough to calm down.  I shook my head and chuckled at him as I watched him slip into his much needed slumber.   This was the moment that I considered that maybe I can vent after my husband has rested up a little.

Oddly, I was able to overcome my restlessness this time.  I refrained from my seasonal escape long enough to vent my feelings when my husband was more prepared to hear me.  I expressed not being satisfied with the lack of attention that I was receiving.  I was clearly filled with discontentment.  But I had no idea about how I arrived at that state in the first place.

  • WHEN YOU LOOK FOR THE WRONG, YOU FIND WHAT YOU SEEK

Unfortunately, when we look for the wrong in others, we tend to find plenty of material to use.  We may often use the common imperfections and mistakes of human-ness to confirm our assumption that someone is simply not all that we had hoped for.  However, I learned that just as my flaws come with the territory, his flaws were included in my wedding vows.    I had to remind myself that I said, “I do.”  I never added “except when he… .”  I never even said “I have to think about that one” or asked “Can we come back to that question a little later?”

Some years later, after looking more at myself, I realized that my feelings of discontentment were mostly self inflicted.   I had been projecting my dissatisfaction with myself onto my husband.  I came to understand that as I grew more satisfied with myself; my feelings of discontentment regarding my marriage began to fade considerably.


  • SOLUTION STRATEGIES TO DISCONTENTMENT IN A RELATIONSHIP

I attended a retreat-type seminar facilitated by a wonderfully insightful woman named Evelyn Christenson.  She taught from her book, called “Lord, Change Me.”  I bought the book and feasted on her insights.  I did my best to apply what I read and soon found myself seeing my husband and my marriage quite differently.  That is when the change in attitude began for me.

I cannot remember who invited me to the conference or why I agreed to go, other than destiny.  But Mrs.  Christenson was able to inspire me to look at what I could do to help my attitude towards my marriage.  I had to make myself open to consider that maybe the issue or fault was not all on my husband.  The hardest element of my change was being able to consider that I might even be misunderstanding what was being said by my husband.  How many times have we declared, “I heard what you said” even though the other person is insisting that those words were never stated?  I had to consider that my mind could be processing information inaccurately.  I had to learn to give my husband the benefit of trust.  As I began to look for the good in my husband, as my mother advised, I begin to see how blessed I really am.

Ultimately, I had to learn to realize the good in Margaret.  I had to stop condemning myself for all of my own past mistakes and hardships. I became aware of my constant assumption that my past wrongdoings and misfortunes somehow made me less of a person.  Of course as I thought so little of myself, I assumed that my husband thought about me the same way.  I had to admit that my discontentment was my own doing and that I had the ability to change it.

To avoid the dangers of discontentment we must first identify that we are struggling with it.  This may be especially difficult if we are comfortable with blaming the other person for not giving us what we need.  But this first step can be what is essential to make real progress in avoiding discontentment.

Then we may need to explore how much of our discontentment stems from self condemnation.  Often some of what we experienced as children shaped our poor and condemning opinions of ourselves.  We may need to do our best to separate our past tragedies from our present realities.

And finally, we need to look for the qualities in our mate that we were attracted to from the beginning.  Those attractive traits are still there and we can have them operating again if we seek them and acknowledge them as we experience them.  We will find that acknowledging the good that we experience from our spouses tends to encourage them to give us more of the same.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

  • Managing Dissonance in Communications and Daily Habits

In order for an orchestra to play well or for a couple that is dancing together to appear graceful there is a need for harmonious timing. However, when we apply that principle to couples and daily communications, there are a number of factors that challenge their ability to communicate in sync with one another’s emotional dynamics.

It is especially difficult to synchronize with one another when you are working in different cultural dynamics and have been delaying pleasure, release and comfort in hopes of a partner that would somehow facilitate that pleasure, comfort or release. If it becomes the responsibility of the partner to facilitate that and they know they are expected to bare that responsibility, then what may occur is that their own needs are delayed even further in order to meet the needs or requirements of their partner. If that continues for weeks, months or even years, it takes a toll on the facilitating partner and a root of bitterness begins to form and harden.

Unrealistic expectations about relationships based on “superman” or “superwoman” fantasies are part of the problem. There is too much potential for discontent when you walk into a relationship thinking they are going to save you from all of your ills or make you better.  It is probable that two people can flourish together due to the synergy produced from the relationship. However, it is not realistic to plan on the flourishing based solely on the partner’s contribution.

  • What Happened to you?

Dr. Frankenstein created a monster from parts of other people put together as his creation. Discontent formulates its own creation often through the influences of life and other people. Do you ever wonder what happened to that person that used to be so carefree, fun and full of laughter? Discontent may be holding that person hostage.

The source of discontentment often originates outside of a lab or the intimate settings of the bedroom. It is the repetitive, negative verbal exchanges that erode the harmony in relationships. For example: A husband that gets laid off from his job comes home only to hear “What did you do wrong this time?”  He overhears his wife talking on the phone with someone saying “I don’t know what we are going to do if he doesn’t get a job soon.” The husband, if responsible, already feels a great deal of pressure to find a job and being laid off inflicts injury to the ego of even the most confident of men.  Somehow he is supposed to muster up the courage and determination to risk rejection and compete for another opportunity/interview to get a job so he can bring in a living wage and take care of his family. However, when that “home” is also the source of another injury through accusations, complaints, ridicule, or worse, exposed embarrassment, then that husband is dangerously discontent.

Now the other side of that equation is that the wife is often over burdened by multitasking; dealing with debt collectors, managing children and the home in addition to the job she has to work to keep your home. If the husband comes home with unrealistic expectations like “Where’s dinner?” or comments like “Don’t you ever clean up this place?”   or worse, “Don’t bother me with all of that! Ask your mother! I just got home!” It is probable that this wife is frustrated and discontent.

Unfortunately, some people have concluded that “If I can make my partner miserable enough then s/he will do what I want.”  That misguided position usually leads toward divorce not a second honeymoon. Promising more hell in hopes of manipulating a partner into being an angel is insanity. I don’t know if these people are looking for marital advice from the Jerry Springer, or Maury Povich shows, but “violence begets violence” and “you reap what you sow” are spiritual laws that have existed forever.

  • A SOLUTION STRATEGY

A better strategy is to find a coping mechanism to heal your attitude.  It is also paramount that each partner recognizes that s/he is responsible for his/her own attitude or state of mind. It is true that trouble is inevitable but misery is optional. I may not be an expert in counting it all joy when I face trials for various types. However, I am a firm believer that the perseverance and character required for our hope is forged through troubled times. Therefore I must develop competencies in handling myself during those troubled times. They call this self control. I have to be willing to work on me and develop coping mechanisms that inspire me to rise up and try it again rather than rehearse my failed attempts or entertain feeling sympathy for myself.

For some, that coping mechanism is reading/hearing inspirational quotes, for others inspiring movies, or sports. However, for me it is usually music. The stories that are embedded in a song that is carefully framed with lyrics to meet me where I am and lift me when I am down, or push me when I want to quit, or just calm me when I am in a storm of worry.  Those songs are treasured tools that I use to cope with life. That is not to say that my wife and “gift from heaven” does not provide inspiring support and relief at times.  On the other hand, we are sometimes going through a need for that inspiration at the same time.

Choose your coping mechanism responsibly. If your coping mechanism is putting your family, your job, or your marriage at risk, it is not worth it. I am even careful about my social networking relationships. Far too many have put their marriage at risk as a result of re-igniting some past flame that now appears mysterious and intriguing. In contrast to the storm of your current marriage, the opportunity may appear attractive however, Proverb 14:12 reads: “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

Another essential component is trust. When it comes to coping mechanisms, trust is invaluable to the relationship so share what and why you are using your coping mechanisms. Be transparent and responsible.

Remember! It is true that trouble is inevitable but misery is optional. Write a song of love together, in harmony while embracing and even learning from the dissonance that is inevitable.