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.

The Impact of Unemployment on Marriages

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Can you guess what the men all have in common in the following movies: John Q, Cinderella Man, The Jacksons (An American Dream), Selena and The Pursuit of Happyness? The answer is that each of these men had to face the reaction of their
wives from their being unemployed.  Of all these movies, the ones that put lumps in my throat were the Cinderella Man and The Pursuit of Happiness.

The scene in The Pursuit of happiness where Will Smith pleads with his wife to stay with him was simply gut wrenching to me.  While I understood his wife’s concern, I wanted him to have the type of companion that would help him through this extremely difficult time.  Even though this movie show a wife leaving her husband, a not too distant study indicated that the divorce rate actually declined during a recession.  A Huffington Post article offers the following interesting insight into the expected connection between divorce and unemployment, “…divorce decreases when unemployment rates climb because couples are not ready to give up their standard of living by having to pay for one extra household with one less salary.”

At the same time, staying together in strife and discontentment is no good either. Perhaps, if spouses would take the time to examine the emotional impact of job loss, there might be more compassion towards the unemployed partner.  I have come to understand that unemployment can induce a highly paralyzing state of mind.  It can greatly reduce a once thriving and confident person into a confused mindset, who learns to doubt everything.

However in order to get hired, the unemployed person actually needs to have a heightened since of awareness and strategic thinking in order to compete for employment.  Unfortunately, additional pressure from home only diminishes the ability to think clearly enough to plan strategies that could result in gainful employment.

It appears that many spouses who look to their partners for financial stability are often unskilled with encouraging the types of provocation that could help them to succeed.  Perhaps they feel that pressuring the spouse to do something” will result in immediate income.  However, many times the pressure leads to their spouses considering options that were previously unthinkable.  Additionally, once the spouse has been made to feel unvalued, it is difficult gain a level of proficiency and confidence that could attract an employer.

This attitude of defeatism can be quite taxing on a marriage.  The feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness are also magnified through the debt collectors and financial obligations that refuse to go away.   Anyone who is constantly faced with such challenges may easily find it difficult to be good company.  However, during this time of financial stress, there is even greater need for encouragement and reassurance.  Financial hardship is a time when the strength of a loving relationship will be exactly what is needed to overcome the growing urge to simply give up.

Ultimately, as in the Cinderella Man movie, a family will be able to reflect upon the great blessing of love and perseverance that actually withstood a great test.  Such challenges can uncover and even develop the true character of a couple that will make their relationship even stronger.  Couples should do their best to reflect upon and recommit to the promise to remain in their marriage- through “richer or poorer”.

Spouses should also encourage each other one to share their feelings that may be causing stress, while striving to give attention to what blessings they still have.  I have learned that everything has a season and hardship does not deserve the worry that it receives. Couples must learn to find ways to comfort each other until the trying season of unemployment passes.  And I truly believe that the more an unemployed spouse is fed encouragement, the sooner the season of worrying about finances will be over.

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.

I Do Me 2 Couples Challenge #4. Guess how your spouse would answer the Trust Quiz.

This challenge is inviting couples  to see how well they know how their spouses feel about trust issues in a marriage.

Each couple will take the How Much Can You Trust Your Spouse? Quiz answering the questions the way they think their spouses would answer.   In other words, wives answer the questions the way they think their husband’s would respond and vice versa.   Try to have some fun with this.  We will invite couples to share their experience on our next I Do Me2 Blog Talk Radio broadcast on Tuesday Night at 8:30 PM CST.

CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED

Broken Trust-How much time is needed to fix it?

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

During a recent live broadcast of our I Do Me 2 Blog Talk Radio (BTR) show, a person in our BTR chat room typed about how trust impacts forgiveness and even sexual relations.  After more discussion, my husband and I realized that this topic really struck a chord with a number of couples.  We received some significant feedback and decided to address the issue of trust in our next blog.

HOW CAN TRUST BE EARNED?

Approaching the topic of trust, I recognized that there was still the need for me to first define what trust means.  I tend to need a little more clarity about a subject that appears to ignite uneasiness when discussed.  This issue of trust certainly appears to be a sore spot in many relationships.  Having stated this, I find it necessary to first declare that I do not agree that trust is earned.  Please read on to learn why.

Morpheus in the Matrix played by Laurence Fishburne.

Every time I hear or read the statement that “trust is earned”, something nags at me as Morpheous (in the Matrix) put it “like a splinter in your brain.”  My experience and observations have led me to believe that people tend to not really understand what trust means to others.  This is exemplified by how often a person responds to a partner with “I thought you trusted me” or “I thought I could trust you.”  It appears that trust is as unique and personal as the one who has it.  With such universal misunderstanding, I doubt that either party in a relationship can truly determine at what point trust is actually earned.  Even in observing someone’s actions, you still lack the knowledge of the purpose, motivation and intent of the heart.

SO MANY  “TRUST” QUESTIONS

How many times have we heard, someone declare (usually after getting busted),  “if you trusted me then…”  while thinking “I don’t agree with that”?  How can someone work to earn something that they do not understand?  How do you know that you have truly earned someone’s trust?  What is the evidence that trust has been earned?  Likewise, how do you know that trust has been broken?  I mean, what if trust was never whole or solid from the beginning of the relationship?  The splinter is getting deeper.

Frankly, I was not too sure about how to define trust, so I went straight to the
cyberspace reservoir of information, known as the Internet.     I ran an online search for the word trust, that returned 1,170,000,000 instances.  After reading each one  (just kidding),  the information overload about trust made the splinter began to grow painful.  From the legal to the emotional, to the logical, the different spins on trust led me back to my first conclusion, which is described in the above paragraph.   So I settled upon first sharing what trust in marriage means, before addressing what to do about breaking and fixing it.

THE TRUST EXPERIMENT

I am reminded of that Trust Experiment where you are told to stand in front of someone, with your back to the person.  You are then instructed to simply fall back, trusting that the person will catch you.  I must admit that I did not always follow logic.  Even if the person was smaller than me and appeared to be weaker, I would close my eyes and try it anyway.  Fortunately, I was never dropped.  But in my mind, it was more about curiosity than trust.  I just wanted to see what the other person was capable of doing.  At the same time, I am certain that I would never try it again if I was dropped and got hurt.

TRUSTING NOT TO BE HURT

I think that it is too much to expect that my spouse will never hurt me.  In our 30 plus years of marriage we have experienced quite a few situations that resulted in our saying and doing things that hurt the other one.  However, I believe that my husband has demonstrated that (in his right mind) he would not intentionally hurt me.  I make the distinction of being in his right mind and intentionally because it is my belief that his love for me produces a desire to protect me from being hurt.    However his wrong, messed up mind might just want to do or say something to defend himself or show me how much I have hurt him.

Likewise, I will admit that there have been times that I felt like I wanted my husband to hurt  and feel some pain in response to my feeling wronged or mistreated in some way.  With this wrong and messed up mind, I intentionally said something or did something that I knew would upset him.    However, he still helps me to feel that he trusts me.   I realize that having confidence in his trust for me greatly influences my trust in him.  (Check out the How Much Can You Trust Your Spouse? Quiz)

EARNING DISTRUST

I am much more confident in people being able to earn distrust than trust.  I see distrust in marriage as when one believes that the spouse is not dependable and not committed to refraining from intentionally inflicting pain and discomfort.  This would certainly qualify for broken trust  in that it is void of being a solid trust.  However, I do not think that there is anything that can be done to truly prove that it is time to trust a person who is viewed us untrustworthy.

I believe that trust is a state of mind held by someone who is voluntarily becoming vulnerable to someone or something.  Trust includes expectation of outcomes and responses that a person believes will occur.  I think people direct their trust to whomever they chose regardless of how much others may lack the evidence that they are trustworthy.   I further believe that people learn to trust rather than accepting that another has earned their trust.  With this in mind, I believe that it is much too difficult to assess whether or not people are actually  projecting their own untrustworthiness onto their spouses.  Perhaps they see something of themselves that makes it impossible for them to imagine that anyone could be trustworthy.  Or maybe they have experienced deep wounds from care givers or former relationships that prevent the ability to give trust to others.  Whatever the hindrance, this could indicate that the trust in their marriage never even had a chance to be broken, because one or both of them never had trust from the beginning.

IN CONCLUSION

There are several areas  in our marriage where I choose to apply my trust.   For me, trust in marriage is believing that my spouse will not intentionally hurt me.  Trust is also believing that I can depend on my spouse when I think that I need support.  Most of all, I trust that he loves me and wants to stay married to me beyond any and every challenge.  He cannot prove this to me because we have not experienced any and every challenge.  However I have learned  that the better I am with reassuring my husband that I trust him, the more he will try to live up to my expectations.  I think that like the Trust Experiment described earlier, sometimes it is best to ignore logic, close your eyes and try it anyway.   And if (or when) the trust is somehow broken to the degree that my husband has earned my distrust, I still believe that I have the (God-given) choice and the control to give my trust to him again at any time.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

STAYING IN MARRIAGE THROUGH BROKEN TRUSTS

Sitting in a small room with the door closed and the blinds drawn closed is a young man staring at his wedding band, asking questions that only God can truly answer. One more sleepless night and the tears continue to flow. His self-contentedness has surrendered to humility. He picks up a pen to  write, but can only write the words; “How long…?”.

Realizing he has no right to dictate the terms or time it takes for his wife to work through the pain he caused, he cries out “Lord! What do I have to do?” He has
prayed fervently and is now confident that God’s mercy has covered him and that God forgives him.  He even believes that his wife has forgiven him for what he did. However, there is this nagging cloud over their home where even in the midst of their intimate moments, there appears to be something that was once familiar but now is being held back.

He murmurs to himself that he was stupid to have broken the promise he broke and must have been insane to do it again. However, the most difficult thing for him to deal with is really not the “what” but “how long”. How long will it take to regain the priceless trust that was once his?

FOR BETTER OR WORSE

In most relationship settings outside of marriage, broken trusts are often a death sentence. However, in marriage, due to the incredible volume and depths of investment and vows there is an inherent motivation to try and recover. Most wedding vows include the statement “for better or for worse” without the couple truly calculating what “worse” might feel like for them. It is a blanket statement that is often used to cover the unimaginable offense. But even if the spouse agrees not to divorce, regaining trust may prove to be a painful journey with volatile progress. Often the lashing out that accompanies a wounded heart provokes a pattern of bitter, verbal exchanges that reminds the offender of what he or she has done repeatedly. Some have expressed the need for retribution in order to convince the offender not to take what happened lightly.

There is no way to actually make up for the events that frame the weight and magnitude of this offense. Additionally, the healing and restoring process is usually undefined and unique to the couple and the situation surrounding the broken trust. However, time is a necessary element of the restoring process. For the injured spouse, letting it go rather than obsessing over what happened is healthier and promotes a better atmosphere for you to heal. The injured spouse must be allowed to express her/his pain and the offending spouse must acknowledge the fact that s/he caused the pain.

For the offender, patience is a required posture. Apologize but remember your injured spouse is likely navigating through a mountain of emotions that conflict with their previous picture of who they believed you were. Those emotions often act like noise that blurs the vision and filters the hearing of your injured spouse. However, emotions like volcanoes erupt and eventually cool off. A remorseful spouse is often willing to listen past the exaggerated words that are framed by anger and disappointment.  Avoid switching into a defensive posture to reduce your sentence. Once the eruption has subsided, set mutual goals that have short-term results.

It is better to not count in minutes, hours or days, but in months and years for this process. It is a slow recovery process toward regaining the sure footed assumptions that often accompany trust-filled relationships. But rejoice and note each step of progress. Remember the blissful mountain from which you fell. However, refrain from requesting a re-assessment of your relationship too soon. You may find that your spouse has not come to the same conclusion as you for the accumulated “brownie points” you believe you have earned. It is better to be patient and earn more than you thought you had than to rush into a review that leaves you woefully off in your self assessment of your progress in earning trust.

When couples calculate the various things that they may have to go through with their spouse, it is difficult to accurately grasp the pain and devastation of broken promises during courting stages. It is only after you have truly placed your trusts and fragile heart in the hands of your spouse that you become vulnerable enough to be totally blindsided by a blow to the gut that leaves you gasping for air and wondering if you can ever recover.

FACING DEVASTATING BREACHES

Infidelity is among the most devastating breaches of trust. However, there are other breaches that also present formidable challenges to move beyond. When a spouse has misused finances through reckless gambling, or investment without the consent of the spouse that results in loss of home, life style, and/or savings preserved for the children’s education that can also be a breech that feels insurmountable.

Among the most difficult breaches of trust I have ever heard of is the one regarding child sexual molestation. This offense is one that crosses so many lines on so many dimensions that even with the help of professionals it is sometimes too difficult to regain even a reasonable level of trust.

REGAINING TRUST

Regaining trust is possible but the injured spouse must be allowed to share their pain. The offender spouse must acknowledge that they caused the pain. Affirm that you know this will be difficult and will take time but that you are committed toward being there through the journey in order to earn the trust back.

If by chance you say something that seems to re-injure your spouse, sincerely apologize for it without defending your motives. Especially through the early times, the injured spouse needs to have their pain validated by you.  If that doesn’t happen, you may find them seeking validation from friends, counselors, pastors, or just about anyone.

For men, it is especially difficult to have their private matters aired in public. There is a much higher probability for recovery when the communication has sustained a respectful level of discretion. Avoid public outbursts that can draw in uninformed bystanders.

IN CONCLUSION

Seek out good counseling while choosing a counselor you mutually decide upon to avoid agitating or giving room for more distrust. A good counselor will use a scalpel like a skilled surgeon to address only what must be resolved for this matter before muddying the waters with other unrelated past issues.

Above all…. Pray, and pray more. There is a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance.

FORGIVENESS IN MARRIAGE

CLICK TO LISTEN TO OUR ONLINE DISCUSSION INCLUDING THIS TOPIC.  Call in number to join us Tuesday night at 8:30 PM CST is (213) 943-3673

NOTE: We will resume the Top 10 Reasons for staying Married blogs, but because of so much that we have been hearing, witnessing and experiencing about forgiveness in marriage, we thought it timely to write about it.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

  • TIME TO FORGIVE

How much time and energy does it take to say, “I forgive you”?  I tried timing it for 5 seconds and was able to say it coherently at least 9 times.   The reason that I even thought about timing how long it takes to say “I forgive you” is because of my reflecting upon how long it took me to actually decide to say it.

This is what happened… I got upset with my husband over something that I cannot even remember now.  But after missing two TV shows that we regularly watch together, I realized that I missed our time with each other and decided to say, “I forgive you.”

Now when I acted on this revelation, my husband was in the living room while I was in the bedroom.  And although he did not hear me say those words, I was satisfied that all was well and I could get back to our good relationship together.  Shortly afterwards, my husband asked if I wanted to watch one of my favorite programs, and we were soon united in our Thursday evening get-together.

You may have noted that It was not necessary that  my husband apologized first before I forgave him.  This may sound spooky (or whatever), but I believe that forgiveness is a spiritual thing.  I believe that I must be ready to  forgive daily in order to have a healthy mind and spirit.

Most days, if not every day, someone does something or says something that I might find offensive or hurtful.  This is something that I recognize as an unfortunate reality for me.  Perhaps it is directly related to my having been  repeatedly molested from childhood through becoming an adult.  Admittedly, I am often quite sensitive to comments and gestures according to my own determination about what they mean.  And more than not, when I express my concern, the other party can clarify the real intent to my satisfaction.  But since I do not often verbalize my hurt, I am left to process it just enough to draw my own conclusions.   Because of this, I found that it is much healthier for my state of mind to process in their favor- and to quickly forgive, so that I can move forward with my life.

  • PAYING FOR THE PAIN

Yet I fully understand how forgiving a spouse for the hurt that you experience may appear to be too much to allow.  I think that somehow, we feel that forgiving people means that we send a message of excusing them when they should be punished.

I understand the need and even passionate desire to see that someone pays for your pain.  Along with the desire for retribution is the need to believe that someone cares about how deeply you have been wounded.  Yet, with all of those needs in mind, I have come to realize that unforgiveness does nothing to solve those issues.

  • HAUNTED BY “THE HURTER

Even though the people who hurt you may feel as though they are being punished by your unforgiveness, you will probably agree that this punishment hardly fits the injury.   All the while there is too much energy required to remain unforgiving towards the person- that I will refer to as the “hurter”.

For example, you must continuously rehearse the wrong in order to keep it in mind.  This allows the hurter to hijack your thoughts while probably not even thinking about you.  You find yourself consistently adjusting your life based upon concerns and potential encounters with the hurter.   For example, you avoid places that the hurter may go even though you might have the desire to be there.  This is especially difficult in a marriage where you share the same friends, places and activities.

You may fight to avoid memories that remind you of the hurter (even if they are pleasant memories).  You dislike other people who somehow remind you of the hurter.  Your mood is altered according to how much the thought of the hurter influences you.  Because of your hurter-induced mood swings,  your responses to others become tainted and misdirected causing people to receive your moods as personal attacks.  Consequently, your bad mood – influenced by your unforgiveness towards the hurter – contaminated your  relationship with others.

There is simply too much control and influence  that we allow others to have as a result of unforgiveness.  – I grew weary of just typing about it.  On the other hand forgiveness is empowering as well as rewarding.  As a source of empowerment, forgiveness allows the forgiving person to regain the joy and liberty of living.  As a source of reward, it allows the forgiving person to recognize the ability to overcome a crippling mindset, which is a great accomplishment.

  • THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE

I choose to forgive even those who have hurt me by molesting and sexually assaulting me.  This is not because I want them to get away with what they did, but because I choose to be released from the bitterness that accumulates from unforgiveness.   Additionally, I do not want to be a hypocrite, seeking forgiveness when I am being unforgiving of others.

I know that my words or actions may also hurt others even though this is not my intention.  If I step on someone’s foot accidently or spit in someone’s face while passionately speaking, it does not stop that person from being hurt or offended.  In either case, I will ask for forgiveness, hoping that the response will be in agreement with my request.

  • IN CONCLUSION

For those who want to forgive, but wonder “how do I forgive such horrible hurt that has been done to me?”, I say that it starts with wanting to forgive.  Next, you must believe that it is necessary to forgive.  Then you must believe and convince yourself that you can forgive anything and anyone.  Like love, I believe that forgiveness is a spiritual gift that grows the more you use it.  However if you reserve a little un-forgiveness for something really bad and evil, then that unforgiveness will manifest even when you would rather move forward with your life.  I have found that my acquisition of the Holy Spirit has imparted an attitude that compels me to forgive – even those injuries that I once thought that I would never forgive.  This is my ultimate recommendation for those who truly want to break from the bondage of unforgiveness in their marriage.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

  • Forgiveness – God’s reset tool to heal your marriage

In an urban apartment in Denver, on any given morning, Sandy, a short, overweight and miserable young women would look at her tall husband and father of their 3 children and begin her daily listing of his faults framed by a litany of profanity laced complaints. The volume of this daily ritual was ear splitting and most of their neighbors and all of their children were already tired of the overflow of violent language that came from their apartment.

John was frustrated, unemployed and suffering from a number of mental illnesses. His addiction to a gaming social network was active and he was not seeking help to break his compulsive behavior. He had an alternative existence that he retreated to that excluded his wife. His coping mechanism was also a huge statement of rejection in her eyes.

This couple experienced trust issues even while dating before marriage. Somehow, they believed that marriage would make it easier to trust one another. They were wrong. In addition to the trust issues they faced, both had a reputation for bringing outsiders into their relationship to deal with things but only to build leverage against the other. Neither of the couple actually heeded the advice of those they brought in. They were only looking for witnesses that would back up their claims against their partner.

Both had support from their respective families. However, neither trusted their in-laws to intervene with objectivity. This power struggle continued to grow toxic and finally violent. The police were called repeatedly and rarely did more than to issue a domestic disturbance citation and warn them to get control of their disputes.

The couple sought help from a local pastor and attended his church occasionally. However, the war continued to escalate. In response to a number of midnight, urgent calls to the pastor, the couple was scheduled for counseling sessions.

Sandy made the first session and used this opportunity to build a case for all of the horrible faults that she was experiencing as a result of her husband’s behavior. She refrained from using profanity, however, there was vivid passion and frustration displayed in her recalling each incident. The pastor listened for more than 30 minutes without interruption. He was listening but did not seem to be moved by her illustrations and appeared to be taking notes. Additionally, the pastor showed very little emotion even when she bursted in to tears. He calmly offered a box of tissue to Sandy and asked; “Is that it?” She was alarmed by the degree of his calmness and shouted back “You don’t understand!” He waited a number of minutes before responding and then after 3-4 minutes had passed he said “Wow!” Sandy looked up to see what the pastor was responding to only to find him looking right at her. With a very calm voice he said, “It sounds like a lot for anyone to deal with.” She nodded but then heard a curious question from him: “Have you forgiven him for all of this?” he said, while leaning forward from behind his desk.

Sandy was shocked and suddenly convinced that this was a complete waste of time.  “What?  Why would I do that? He’s not getting away with all that ….stuff!” She said; while the blood rushed to her face in anger. The pastor continued remaining calm and replied: “I never suggested he should. However, I thought it was about time you got off the hook for this.  The best way for that to happen is for you to forgive him.  Why don’t you try to do that and I want you to promise to come back and see me next week. Would you do that for me Sandy?”

Confused by this strange set of requests, Sandy said: “Don’t you want to talk to John first?” The pastor looked at her and said, “There is more for you to share with me before I talk with him. How about 1 week from today at the same time?” Sandy was caught off guard and agreed to the scheduled appointment. She was still not convinced that this was not a waste of time, and she seemed challenged by the request of the pastor to forgive. She struggled with that request all week and came back asking the question: “Why did you say that to me?  How am I getting off the hook by forgiving him?” The pastor smiled and said; “I’m so glad you asked that. It appears to me that you are still not getting much sleep and much of your day is filled with stress even when your husband is not talking to you. He is not being punished by your not forgiving him… you are. You are punishing your own peace and sanity by holding on to this plan of vengeance. That just doesn’t seem to be working out too well. Wouldn’t you agree?”

  • Hitting the Reset Button

Sandy nodded her head and spoke softly; “How do I do this?”  “Well, I want to pray in agreement with you but I need to introduce you to the One that forgave me first.” The pastor began to share from his heart about his relationship with Jesus and led the woman to an understanding that inspired her to surrender her broken life to Jesus.  Over the next week, Sandy began to behave differently toward John. The daily listing of his faults was replaced with positive conversation and suggestions about employment opportunities she had read about. She also revisited the sermons she heard on CD.

John was still not changed in his heart and began to take his frustrations out on her until even he acknowledged that something in her had changed.  He asked what happened to her and she shared about her new found relationship with Jesus and the church. The husband scoffed at her assertions but was curious enough to go to the pastor and ask for a meeting. The pastor began to meet with him and then together with his wife as they appeared to initiate a treaty of peace, ending the war they had fought in for years.

Sandy learned that the toxic substance of her constant criticism and belittling of John was counter productive to the dreams they had shared when they first met. John began to build trust by seeking help to break free from his compulsive behavior.  They began to discuss things and even committed to “fighting fair” strategies that prevented them from ridiculing or making demeaning comments. Most important was their decision and vow to consider the children more and to refrain from violent arguments in front of them.

  • Meeting the Needs

This couple needed a lot more than a few episodes of the help they received from the pastor, the church and their relationship with The Lord. However, their journey has much more potential to continue moving away from divorce and closer toward their dreams while their help flows through a variety of sources.

Every couple has different needs and this is not the only strategy to solve turbulence in a relationship. However, I am convinced that forgiveness is as essential to the healing process of a relationship as water is to the growth of plant life. Likewise, it must flow without respect to the number of times it has been applied for the sake of the relationship.

  • Vengeance is Mine

For the partner that has endured long term pain from an abusive partner you can trust in this Scripture: “Galatians 6:Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (NLT) and Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (NKJ)

During the airing of a previous teaching I entitled “Unforgiveness – Chains to the Past” I found that many, many people are struggling with this issue. I received calls
from people from different faiths, different cultures, young and old admitting that they were challenged by this issue. However, I have also found that married couples are plagued even to a greater extent with this challenge and often continue a pattern of failed relationships if they do not learn to apply this basic principle of forgiveness.  The most important principle of forgiveness to embrace is that it frees the offended from the act of the offender preventing the offended from being re-victimized by the same act over and over again.

So many victims of pain rehearse their pain in such a way that they interrupt their healing process and re-injure themselves. Others repress their stories but hold on to the pain as though some how it will prevent them from being surprised by that type of pain again. However, my experiences indicate the latter strategy orchestrates re-occurrences of similar pain and suspicion that most people want to victimize them again.

Parents consider it critical to provide protection for their children because they appear to be so forgiving and yet, it is through that same resilient attitude of forgiveness that they can fall and get up again even if it means risking another fall. Additionally, many children continue to have hope even after parents break their promises or disappoint the children over and over again.

There are a number of very positive examples displaying the advantages of forgiveness. Scripture tells us “14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

  • In Conclusion: 

I once read that Mahatma Gandhi contended that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”   This strength Gandhi referred to can also help to facilitate a resetting of the perspectives and motives in continuing any relationship. I am not suggesting that this is the sole catalyst for marital happiness. On the other hand, I do contend that it facilitates better conflict resolution toward a higher level of harmony and overall content.

Embodied in many of the principles that have been handed down to us is that patience and perseverance produce character. This is not a quick fix solution to marital discord. The competencies of conflict resolution will never replace character. Some are more skilled but still dishonest. Others are honest but lacking the communication skills needed to address conflict. But both are needed for sustained trust and harmony and everyone is capable of forgiveness.  With great character, forgiveness can facilitate the resetting of  a derailed relationship. In my humble opinion, that is a recipe for a long and prosperous marriage.

Sex is Better When You’re Married – Reason #4

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DISCUSSION ABOUT THIS BLOG TOPIC.

 

 

This blog entry is the fourth follow up to our challenge to develop top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

My husband and I discussed this a bit before agreeing to make this topic the next entry in our follow-up blog series regarding the top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.  Sex was among my husband’s top 10 Reasons to Stay Married, and I thoroughly agree.

This may be one of those articles that our children would rather not read, but we both agree that it is a topic worth our time and effort.  Both of our backgrounds include (perhaps too many) opportunities to make a reasonable comparison about sexual relations with and without the marital bond.

  • FROM HAVING SEX TO MAKING LOVE

There is little that my husband and I have not experienced in relationships, which allows us to speak from experiential perspectives.  I realize that there is really no way to prove to others that sex is better in a good marriage than with being single.  And I also realize that it is still up to the couple to maximize their marital relationship.  However, I have found that as love grows deeper in marriage, everything needed for great sexual relations is also developed.

We understand and appreciate the gift of sexual gratification that results from our love for each other.  After so many years of experiencing his selfless contributions towards pleasing me, I have absolutely no desire to explore any sexual relationship with anyone other than my husband. I certainly hope that my husband feels the same way about me.  However it took time to arrive at this realization.  The  type of sexual bliss that we now have took time to develop.  My youthful lust was gradually replaced by deep love, passionate engagement and sincere enjoyment that continues to grow for my husband.

  • SINGLE SEX VS. MARRIED SEX

There are those who might argue that sex outside of marriage is just as good.  I have no inclination to argue with someone who wants to think that way.  I simply know from my own experience that there is no way that I would welcome a return to that lifestyle.  One of the greatest reasons is that without the security of a marital relationship, sex tends to remain open to possibilities outside of the couple.  I believe that this openness causes distractions that prevent the opportunity to experience the holistic bond that occurs through long term monogamy.   This holistic bond is what has significantly enhanced our sexual relationship.  And our enhanced sexual relationship has other benefits as well.  It helps relieve stress and really aids our weight management and health regimen.

Although many unmarried people are able to be dedicated to one partner at a time,  other people will tend to view them as available.  Until there is a declaration of commitment through marriage, unmarried people are considered fair game.  They may even be hounded by those looking to “get lucky.”

I also have found that for many single people, sex may even be a source of stress and fear.  Single people are often more concerned with performance and competition (stress)as well as what disease their partners might have (fear) than married people.

  • TIME WASTING SEX

Sex outside of my marriage would be a waste of valuable time and effort.  I already know that my husband excites and stimulates me.  There is no need nor desire for pretense or performance.    I never feel guilty, cheated or bored with regards to having sex with my husband.  I also know that even if something is not quite right, we can talk about it and try again.  I believe that the state of deeply enjoyable and gratifying sexuality is most achievable in a relationship that is free of outside interference and distractions that occur when outside relationships are involved.

I am not impressed nor appreciative when people express that they consider me to be “sexy.”  Being sexy simply means that someone thinks that you would make an enjoyable sex partner.  I believe that anyone at any given time could wear that label.  However, I am impressed that one man wants to have a thriving sexual relationship with me after so many years of marriage.  I am very impressed that he cares enough about me to discuss and explore what makes us both happy.

  • A HIGH YIELD INVESTMENT

While growing in our marriage, we are also learning how to navigate the timing.  I am still learning how to manage my time in a way that keeps me from being too tired when my husband is especially desiring intimacy with me.  Likewise, I know that I have an open invitation to engage my husband’s full participation in satisfying my sexual desires.  I am grateful that my husband spends the time to learn about my needs and desires as well.  We have both invested the time to learn about each other’s sexuality.  We trust and care about each other enough to inquire about what is good and what is not good.

I find that investing deep love and commitment into our marriage continues to produce highly gratifying physical rewards.  However, I  must add that  there is also the element of spiritual investment that further contributes to our enjoyment.  For example, I pray for my husband to find pleasure with me in every way.   I also pray that we grow in our love and that we only desire each other.  Then I am mindful to give thanks to God for blessing us with the ability to enjoy each other with such totality.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I believe that truly great sex begins with a great marriage.  This is why I agree with my husband that sex should be listed among the top 10 reasons to stay married.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

God’s Perfect Design for Intimacy

  •  Passion, Rhythm and Grace

The lights dim and a sultry acoustic guitar begins to strum a simple but compelling latin rhythm of Jose Feliciano’s rendition of Light My Fire. A single spot light fades in and directs the audience’s eyes toward the center of the room.  An attractive couple embraces each other with the man positioned behind the woman and arms wrapped around her. They begin moving in perfect rhythm, synchronized to this slow latin rhumba. Their eyes gaze in to each other, however, no words are spoken. They anticipate each others moves and engage into a sensual dance celebrating their passion of their relationship.

The man is graceful and yet masculine as his guiding hands lead his elegant and sensual partner through a series of twists, and turns that culminates in a very close embrace. Their breathing seems exaggerated and intentionally synched with the beat of the song. The woman flirtatiously pulls away from him only to be pulled back in with a firm and controlling grip. She surrenders because there is no competition here during this moment.

Both appear determined to please one another producing a synergy of passion, rhythm and hot breathing in an intimate and familiar zone that provides a refreshing and entertaining rhumba dance.  The audience applauds with each turn and gasp in awe like voyeurs peeping into a private encounter of passion. The song ends with the couple facing each other wrapped tightly in each other’s arms.  They thank each other and then bow toward the audience in appreciation of the applause of the audience.

It would be wonderful if this type of synchronization and synergy characterized the sexual encounters of every married couples. However, many married couples would state a different story regarding their own intimate encounters. On the other hand, the statistics state that there are more married couples that enjoy this intimacy with more frequency than their single counter parts.

Studies show that 40-50% of married people claim their sex lives are satisfying compared to 20-25% of the single and cohabiting counterparts.  (Maggie Gallagher and  researcher/co-author Linda J. Waite  of The Case for Marriage (2001))  Of course there are those that would challenge the accuracy of the study. However, the crowded bars, clubs and frequent prowling of people seeking companionship suggest that finding a partner is not an easy chore. Additionally, the familiarity, trust and selflessness that is rooted within the structure of marriage frames a far more favorable setting for enjoyable intimacy.

  • Risky Business

Dating encounters that are often filled with clumsy pick up lines, and awkward conversations that are intended to lure the targets into a sexual relationship are rarely presented accurately in today’s TV sitcoms and movies. There are no second takes for the guy that approaches the woman that he has been lusting for the past half an hour only to forget his name while introducing him self before he begins to tell a story about something that has no barring on who he is or what she likes. Despite the level of mystery and intrigue of dating, I think there is little chance of this encounter reaching the levels of intimacy and satisfaction I have grown accustomed to within my marriage.

I agree there are a number of distractions and pressures that tend to plague and even hijack the spontaneous lust filled encounters that steamy movies and TV shows tend to profile. Even in a solid marriage, it is not easy for a man that has just experienced a humiliating and hard day at work, or a woman that fought her way through traffic to get home from her job early enough to make a dinner and pick up the kids to turn on the flirtatious and sensual non-verbal communicators that inspire an atmosphere for intimacy.

On the other hand, the seasoned couple that finds a way to develop the rhythm and synchronization needed to anticipate the moves and moods of their partner are far more likely to experience more frequent and satisfying sexual encounters. This seasoned couple has progressed beyond the awkward stages of clumsy experimentations. They have discovered a set of tried and true satisfying practices they can rely upon. They still experiment and are open for spontaneity, however, they can also do those things that continue to deliver satisfaction without worry of growing bored. I find it hard to fathom ever growing tired of the frequency and heights of satisfaction I share with my wife. The prelude is not often the same but the resolve always leaves us spent and satisfied. That’s not an experience I could count on during dating episodes before I married my wife.

  • Passion Sanctioned by God 

Personally, I believe this type of intimacy is protected and designed by God Almighty for  the heart’s desire of married couples.  I can’t imagine anything I have ever done proving worthy enough to justify the level of intimacy and enjoyment I experience with my beautiful wife. We have what we have through His grace and mercy.  Hallelujah!

In the Bible, we read; ” Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled”. I interpret that verse of Scripture to mean that my union with my wife is righteous in the site of  God and that whatever we decide to do in bed is permitted. We are allowed to be creative, spontaneous, to moan as a quiet storm or scream as a loud volcano and God is alright with that. I will refrain from any other illustrations in order to keep this fit for family reading. However, the point I am making is I believe that what we do in the privacy of our bedroom is without regret, guilt or blame. That is one of the many reasons that I can look forward to the morning after our making love rather than my single, or cohabiting counterparts.

I heard it said that chocolate tastes better if you had to steal it, however, when it comes to my wife, I believe our intimacy is better because she is mine. I would never trade my plentiful gift from heaven for a risky night of being a thief.  We hold nothing back during our intimacy and the reward is consistently  satisfying.

The Biblical model for marriage makes a provision for frequency as a safe guard:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

This provision is not a license for either partner to abuse the other. It is the framework of trusting one’s own body into the hands and motives of your partner. It frames an offering toward the prolonged satisfaction of your partner. The authority over your partner’s body should be rooted in love and not lust. Love is sacrificial. Lust is self seeking.

For those that continue to insist that they enjoy a greater level of frequency and satisfaction because they are single or cohabiting, I am willing to consider that you may not know what you don’t know. Additionally, I believe there is no chance at all of my ever becoming a candidate to join your ranks.

  • Hazardous Hunting Grounds

On the other hand I have counseled a number of single and cohabiting adults that I have deep compassion for.  The volume of social networks, dating sites,  and singles clubs tell me that there are extremely large numbers of people that are hoping to “get lucky.”  Their hunting grounds are dangerous, full of predators, STDs, and unknown challenges that are often deceitful, disappointing and under-deliver on their promises to satisfy.

Unfortunately, failed marriages may make the loudest noise regarding their dissatisfaction. However, my experience (and those of the couples that I know are happy), tend to avoid boasts about how great and or how frequent the levels of our intimacy meet or exceed satisfaction. It’s not a secret, but the intimate details should remain between us. We should never become arrogant or prideful.

  • Sharing Your Burning Passions for Each Other

In closing, I want to revisit the example of the dance partners I used in the beginning of this blog. The very graceful and exciting couples that win in dance competitions require training, practice, and a healthy level of boldness. Likewise, married couples must develop those things that work best for them. That level of communication requires trust, honesty, patience, sensitivity, confidence, a sincere desire to satisfy your spouse and a very active prayer life to protect your thought life and motives. If those lines of communication are active and proficient it is probable that this couple has learned and even established a consistent ritual of satisfying intimacy.

My wife and I often pray to only have desire for each other. I ask that God will help me to hold captive every thought obedient to Christ. If my mind, my heart and my spirit are all in line with God’s perfect design for intimacy, the results are always extraordinary. We always thank God for our marriage and the gift of intimacy He has designed for us.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I completely agree with the Scripture : “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Is Love Reason Enough to Stay Married?

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This blog entry is the third follow up to our challenge to develop top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway sang the questions, “Where is the love you said was mine all mine, till the end of time?  Was it just a line?  Where is the love?”

Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

In reflecting upon those questions, I have wondered if when we promise to love someone, we actually have a good idea about what love is.  For example, think about the last time that you said “I love you” to your spouse.  Now try to think


about exactly what you meant by that statement.    Then think about times that you did not feel the love.  Where did it go?  Before you really try to meditate on your answer to those questions, please continue reading.

After having an argument about love with my husband, I decided to do some research on love to be ready when we later continue our argument.   That may seem strange or funny, but that’s what we do.   Anyway, I tried to uncover a true meaning of love that agreed with how I feel about love.  This was actually quite a challenge that was beginning to frustrate me.  I was beginning to hate my search for the true meaning of love.  There were so many opinions and insights about love that seemed to keep me bouncing around a virtual pin ball table of perspectives.  Finally, I decided that I would settle upon the Scriptural foundation of love since this is what is used to develop widely accepted marriage vows.  Although I do not consider myself very religious, I strongly believe that there are spiritual laws which influence and govern our existence.  Whether or not you agree, I trust that you will find the results interesting enough to consider.

  • LOVE AS A WORD

Basically, there are various language influences in Bible versions that include both Old and New Testaments.  I tend to refer to the Hebrew and Aramaic texts because it makes sense to me that they are closer to authenticity.  However, I respect that many others prefer King James and other translations.  As a show of concession my statements will consider what I believe are points of agreement.

An area of agreement regarding love appears to reside within the Old Testament of the Scriptures.  There is only one word for love in the Old Testament which is derived from the Hebrew term.  The following is taken from an article that I believe sums this up best.  “With respect to words for love, it resembles our languages like English or German: there is one and only one word for love (the verb ahav and the noun ahava) which covers the concept as broadly as our modern word “love”. God’s love (Jr.31:3), love of God (Dt.6:4), love of the fellow man (Lv.19:18), love of a friend (2Sam.1:26), love of a girl (Gen.29:20), mere sex (Prov.7:18), love of money (Eccl.5:9), and love of vanity (Ps.4:3) are all called by the same name.” http://www.lrz.de/~hr/bible/loves.html

  • WHERE DOES LOVE ORIGINATE?

I find that when it comes to marriage, there is love and there is the idea of love.  The idea of love can be superficial and can easily fluctuate according to how one may feel from moment to moment.  However I believe that love comes from God and that it is a spiritual gift.  I further believe that the acquired gift of love resides within a person’s spirit that transcends what is rational or able to be fully understood.   This gift of love is developed according to how and how much it is used.

I believe that love itself does not fluctuate and does not come in varieties.  This means that if you have this spirit of love that the love flows to everyone, because love does what love is.  I am convinced that love is consistent and not contingent upon the whims of those who possess it.  I believe that we choose how we use love and tend to combine it with other influences such as physical attraction, enjoyment, etc.   I do not believe that there are different types of love, but only different ways that we apply and process love.

  • MY PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT LOVE DOES

Now with so much discussion about the makeup of love there is still the question of what love does.  I believe that love is the essence of what is good.  It is the spiritual element of our existence that causes us to ultimately feel good about others and about life.  When I say that I love someone, I am willing to see and feel the good in and about that person.  I am also willing to overlook any bad or perceived faults when I am in the active state of love.  In the state of love, I easily forgive because I want what is good.

However, I am also of the opinion that many people are engaged with the idea of love which can easily fluctuate according to how they feel.  When people are able to stop loving someone, I believe that they actually quench the spirit of love.  I believe that love can be managed or even channeled.  But the choice not to love is controlled by the beholder more than the influence of the receiver.   My love for my husband is not contingent upon how he feels about me because my love is a gift from God that flows from my being a loving person.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I believe that God is the originator of love and that God is Love.   I further believe that the state of love is defined by the originator of love and is described and defined in the spiritual reference of the Holy Scriptures.  I have this scripturally based love for my husband and believe that this is the love that he has for me.  With this love, I am able to overcome the times that I might feel hurt by his words or actions.  This love compels me to forgive him and even want what is best for him.  It so happens that I believe that being married to me is included in what I believe is best and good for my husband.  Since I also believe that my husband loves me, I am confident that he realizes how much he is included in what is best and good for me.  We are able to make it through the tough challenges that we face in marriage because our love compels us to want what is best and good for each other.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

If a couple has to count reasons for them to stay married, then love’s ability to motivate and inspire has probably been severely challenged.  However, one of the most powerful attributes about love is its resilience.  Rekindling love is almost always a strategy to stimulate the memory; to reignite that “reckless, nobody but you will do” type of feeling you once had about your mate.

Some may say they have fallen out of love of their spouse. I believe that there are seasons that are less romantic in a relationship. I also believe that your relationship may require a defibrillator and some resuscitation but most relationships are worthy of another vigilant try.  This marriage was probably initiated and founded on love and the promise to love through good and bad times…. Remember?

  • DEALING WITH TEMPTATIONS

On the other hand, there are a multitude of lures out there that target those seeking “action packed passion on steroid” type of experiences. There should be warning labels stamped on the front of every date (outside of your spouse) that is promising to give you what you’ve been missing. However, they also know you probably wouldn’t read the label. This area of lust only responds to scent (not sense)  and picturesque thrills of short encounters.

Meanwhile, back at the normal home front, the adventure and mystique that accompanies your early dating process is often tossed aside for more practical and less romantic activities. Many couples are stressed just trying to navigate through finance (including consequences from impulse spending), health, children, and life in general. In the midst of some of the darkest and most difficult times of a marriage, those lures look especially distracting and attractive. However, they usually offer only short term satisfaction and often under represent the “fatal attraction” drama that accompanies their advances.

I still love my very stunningly beautiful wife and I am still aroused by her sensual and earthy scent that lingers after her warm embrace that assures me that I am still the only man for her. However, I am also guilty of not demonstrating and expressing the different dimensions of that love with enough regularity to off-set bouts of insecurity that surface. Most women will respond positively to spontaneous and romantic encounters that cast them in a starring role. On the other hand, that script has to be put in action more than once a year, or decade… Amen? (She will probably use this as leverage against me in the future…. )

On the other hand, stressful relationships can make even great plans appear unlikely and there is often an argument waiting to happen. Typically, in the midst of those stressful times, communication suffers and becomes stressful.  Repeated episodes of those arguments and stress will erode the trust in a relationship.

  •  HAVING THE BEST OF INTENTIONS

We must also address the need for your spouse to trust that you will be there for her/him, protect her, respect him and demonstrate trustworthiness.  Finally, I have learned that most want to feel that s/he will always rank among the most important things that are getting your attention.

Outlined in verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we find what may be among the most important action things for a man to do. In this biblical listing of character traits of love, we find a very appealing plea for love being the catalyst for staying in a marriage.  Paul declares:

(4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.)

Now, if a couple has reached the point in their marriage where they are seeking reasons to justify staying or leaving; “What’s love go to do with it?” Remember love always perseveres, always, hopes, and always trusts.

There will be problems in most marriages.  Remember, there were even challenges in marriages during biblical times as there are now. The selfless attitudes that are illustrated through the true attributes of love is not like the noise in the head of a person considering divorce. It appears that people become far more self-centered and focused on personal needs when considering divorce.

I believe that is the justified motive behind framing covenant vows with promises to love in good times and bad. Contrasting times of bliss and struggle are inevitable in a marriage. However, the resilience of love can not only make that marriage bearable, but truly satisfying.  It may require more than a “couples retreat” to reignite those flames of love. However, the reward of reigniting those flames should prove worthy of the effort.

When given an exercise to meditate and journal all the reasons that you love your spouse, many are able to push aside imperfections and focus on the most attractive aspects of their marriage. Even if poisonous arguments have tarnished the glow of those aspects; with a lot of prayer, professional help and the desire to make it work, love can once again place your relationship into that “reckless, nobody but you will do” spot.  Because of the resilience of love, you can enjoy this relationship you promised to stay with in front of God and witnesses.

  •  ADDRESSING THE SPIRIT OF “I TRIED EVERYTHING!” CONSIDER TRYING THIS…

   Plan an appropriate outing, fitting your current budget. (Splurging can be a trigger for an argument and an example of your irresponsibility as well.)

(What’s the weather like?) For example; if you have been planning this special time to get away but your spouse does not trust you or is even suspicious of your intentions, you may find it impossible to be spontaneous because you need to be trusted to do what you are doing.  However, if you confide in a trusted sibling, or friend that could back up your intentions to your spouse without giving away the plan, you can overcome some of the suspicion through a surrogate trustee.

Taking your wife to a sporting event might not be the best choice to make her feel like she is the star of the night. However, taking her to a dance club where you are constantly turning your head to look at other women is even worse. A medley of things that may begin at the Museum (as an example) and end up somewhere cozy and very private could be just the thing that frames a time of intimacy and sharing that reassures your spouse of the fact that she is still the star of your dreams.  Aim for a win-win situation where you can both enjoy the night.

Essential to this date is to somehow capture this event with a photograph. Even a cell phone can capture this very special time and allow you to save and frame this memory/event for further review at the appropriate time.

If you are not very good at communicating your feelings, then search for that special song with those great lyrics that expresses what you are trying to say as clearly as possible. You should also plan on the follow up after playing the song. Dead silence could give room to questions like “What does that mean?” Be prepared to point to the specific line that captures what you are trying to say. No need to play the whole song unless relevant.

Remember and re-state plans you can still accomplish. Remember the goal is to rekindle.  Rekindling amplifies what is still there while acknowledging the promise of what could still happen. If you try all of this and it still meets a wall of resistance, then stay hopeful and get ready to stand and persevere. Remember: in the end “Love never fails!”

I Do Me 2 Couples Challenge #1 – Reasons to Stay Married Lists

Just take about an hour for this Challenge:

1) Each of you do your best to list the top 10 reasons to stay married (without talking about them with each other at first).

2) See which ones you have in common and note which ones you have that are different.

3) Try to come in agreement with the top 3 Reasons to stay married from your lists.

Join our online blog talk show to chat or call in to share your results with us.

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