Battling the Fear of Commitment in Relationships

For those seeking a healthy permanent relationship, Elisabeth LaMottes’ book, Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce takes an insightful and hopeful look at a overcoming your parents' divorce bk LaMotte 50dating/relationship environment that is made even more complicated by our parents’ divorce. It’s strength lies in its almost exclusive focus on the fear of commitment—an issue many other books only give a passing mention.

Though enlightening for the single individual, the book is a worthy read for married adult children of divorce because it explains many of the challenges you probably experienced on your way to matrimony.

Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, an adult child of divorce and therapist in Washington DC, shares many stories from clients who struggled with committing to a relationship—as a direct result of their parents’ split. At times heartbreaking, but scarily applicational, her book always points us to the potential of a positive outcome. The overtone of the book reminded me of Psalm 61:2, “When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

TEngagement Rings by Valshak Suresh 40he book’s approach is summed up by her statement, “In spite of the multiple difficulties that flowed from growing up with divorced parents, it is worth noting some of the positive things that subjects say about their parents’ divorce.”

One of the ways she illustrates this is with generous glimpses from her own life that was fraught with relationship and life challenges brought on by her parents’ breakup. However, despite the rocky road, she has achieved a happy marriage and family.

The chapters in her book gently probe our own histories and faulty attitudes as we watch LaMotte interact with clients that could easily be us. In “Do You Choose Candy Bars Instead of Apples,” LaMotte explores the trap of choosing the sweet but non-nutritious partner versus the individual who is good for us. “Do You Prefer Renting Over Buying” challenges our unconscious tendency to treat our relationships as fleeting because its safer than taking the risk of having a stable relationship end.

Though my dating history is anemic, and I married my only real girlfriend, many of the fears and lies LaMotte reveals in chapter after chapter plagued me during high school, hearts red and white 50college—and well into my marriage. But,  ever hopeful, she has an interesting way of trudging through the muck to find the gold nuggets.

Since many adults with divorced parents are stuck in the fear-of-commitment muck,  LaMotte’s book is a strong tool for those who want a solid relationship, but are secretly afraid of it at the same time.

Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce is a secular book, but has minimal language and no graphic sexual discussions.

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Heart Image: Engagement Rings by Valshak Suresh

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Smiling Through Our Hate, “For the Kids”

I just really, truly believe that you must love our children more than you hate your ex. And I think this shows Wolfie that Valerie Bertinelli - 4404692_valerie-bertinelli-set-to-join-food-network_81e1e37a_m cpdjust because Mom and Dad don’t live together any longer that we can still get along.”1 Valerie Bertinelli shared this on “The View” back in 2011.Gwenyth Paltro oscar2721248_46976 cpd

Four years later Gwyneth Paltrow was quoted on her ex, “‘Even though today, you hate me and you never want to see me again, like, we’re going to brunch, ’cause it’s Sunday and that’s what we’ll do!’…The children are our commitment.”2

Protecting the kids from the impact of the divorce is a growing international concern. A recent “Times of India” article suggested parents “consider co-parenting” without divorcing. The spousesDivorce by Tony Guyton get to lead separate lives with no accountability to each other except in matters involving the kids. According to the author, this arrangement will, “wipe out all the negativity that divorce brings along since children of divorce tend to be pessimistic about relationships.”3

Its admirable divorcing parents want to minimize the effects of their divorce, but is being with two people who hate each other “good for the kids”? Unfortunately, these are not the type of questions being asked.

In the quest for the “good divorce,” courts, counselors, and politicians are seeking how to keep divorced parents together just enough that their kids aren’t affected by their split.  According to TIME magazine, “about 20 states are debating changes in custody laws to encourage shared parenting.4

Again, I applaud efforts to minimize the short and long-term negative impact of parental divorce. But I fear the pendulum has swung too far because we’re asking the wrong questions to the wrong people.ACD Ministries Angry Couple

The right questions are:

  • Are children’s fantasies of their mom and dad getting back together reinforced by shared parenting?
  • What does two parents pretending to get along teach developing children?
  • Can parents fit a size-10 hate into a size-4 pair of jeans that say “getting along for the kids” on the back label?
  • How does shared parenting work when one or both remarry?

The right people to ask are adult children of divorce. They’ve been there and will give you the real scoop.

Heart Bible by HonorboundSo since the Bible teaches it and the vast majority of research agrees, the best brunch for children is one that includes their natural father and mother—who have strong religious convictions and love for each other.

The majority of divorces today don’t involve adultery, abuse, or systemic neglect. “Unmet needs” is currently the number one reason. However, “unmet needs” and Jesus’ command to “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me,”5 can’t coexist. So the time help couples avoid divorce is now.

I vote to stop swinging the dealing-with-post-marriage-effects pendulum from trend to trend, and work harder to stop divorce in the first place.

1Detroit Free Press, 1-23-11
2Michele Zipp, http://thestir.cafemom.com/love_sex/188096/how_gwyneth_paltrow_gets_through
3Srishti Ghosh Shinde, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/parenting/Consider-co-parenting-    
 before-going-for-a-divorce/articleshow/48002312.cms
4l Susanna Schrobsdorff. The rise of the ‘Good Divorce,’ TIME Magazine, August 3, 2015
5Luke 9:23
Images – Divorce by Tony Guyton; Heart Bible  by Honorbound

Is it okay to Lie – Part 4 – Do unto others. . .

Before we address (or undress if you will) the “do I look fat in this outfit?” question, we must establish that 98% of the situations we face are not lose/lose scenarios. There is no reason to lie.

As we’ve seen in this series of blogs, adult children of divorce (ACD) often think telling the truth will bring fearful consequences. But in most cases this simply isn’t true. Lying also puts us at odds with God who hates it. So what can we do?

Sharing by Aaron ConcannonFollowing these words of Jesus is a good place to start; “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”1 Though sometimes counterintuitive, if we want to trust people, we must first be trustworthy. To live our lives without unnecessary fear, we must communicate (truthfully) how we feel and what we’re thinking with our loved ones.

In an extreme example of this, I heard a counselor say that couples that survive an affair (a much higher number than you’d think) can actually have a stronger marriage than before the tragic incident. The reason is, if the counseling is done properly, they’ve bared their souls at such a deep level that virtually nothing they could share in everyday life compares to the brutality of the conversations about the affair.

Unfortunately, so few of us will take the risk to experience deeper relationships when the cost is vulnerability. But choosingThe Conversation - Redux by Bill Gracey to take positive action to overcome our negative fears can greatly reduce the temptation to lie.

I love the verse in Proverbs that says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely.”2 Lets rephrase that to, “I trust, have confidence in, and believe my heart is safe with my spouse.”

Can you say that? Can they say that of you? Does it seem like an impossible dream? It’s not. Remember, most of the time we have no reason to fear our spouse (or good friend) and everything to gain by trusting them. But we must choose to change.

So in summarizing this series, to avoid the quicksand of lying we need to:

  • trust God and not fear people
  • lean on biblical truth
  • communicate your desire to change to loved ones
  • start with smaller safe situations to stop lying
  • And do unto others as you’d want them to do unto you.

questioning stick figureNow back to our question of the day: “Do I look fat in this outfit?” Just like the real issues behind lying is often fear, behind this question is often insecurity, shame, and inadequacy. So address the root:  “Honey, no dress or outfit will ever affect my love for you. You’ll always be my [term of endearment.]” Do unto others. . .

 

1Luke 6:31, New Living Translation
2 Proverbs 31:11, Amplified Bible
Images: “Sharing”, by Aaron Concannon; “The Conversation – Redux”, by Bill Gracey

Healed, but Dead – A Sunday Snippet

Jesus was walking with His disciples when ten lepers approach Himten lepers and ask to be healed. For a leper to talk to anyone was risky at best. Speaking to a Rabbi was worse. But the coup de grace was some of them were Samaritans—which, to the average Jew, was worse than being a leper. But Jesus, being Jesus, says “go show yourself to the priests.”1 In essence, “I’ve answered your request. You’ll be healed.”

So off they go to the chief priests who were responsible for verifying that the leprosy was gone and pronouncing people cured. But on the way they are healed! A big deal even by today’s medical standards.

Thankful hearts?
But here’s where things get interesting. One of the lepers, a Samaritan,  realizes he’s healed, turns around and searches until he finds Jesus. He then throws Himself at Jesus’ feet thanking Him for his healing.

Jthankful leper medianaesus asks, ““Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?2 Then Jesus says something that is heartbreaking—““Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”3

Why is that heartbreaking? To me it says that only one leper was saved by faith in Christ and would spend eternity in Heaven. The other nine, though healed, were still dead in their sins. Healed, but dead.

This principle is critical to understand because at Adult Children of Divorce Ministries we’re committed to helping adults with divorced parents heal from the “leprosy” parental divorce can cause. This type of “leprosy” maims hope, kills joy, and withers relationships.

But healing from the “leprosy” of parental divorce without the greater healing of our sin problem is simply being healed, but dead. Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”4 Without Jesus, we may overcome common ACD issues and live a full life, but when we die, we won’t have Jesus’ protection from the wrath God pours out on all sin.

The healing that lasts
Like dealing with ACD issues, the Christian walk is a journey. It starts by confessing our sins (the wrong things we do, say, and think), acknowledging that Jesus died for those sins, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord over our lives. The journey continues with praying regularly with God, reading and studying the Bible, and gathering with other Christians in a Bible-teaching church.Jesus is the bridge to eternal life

Our desire is to help you break the cycle of divorce. But Jesus said, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world, but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?5 If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please click here to learn how you can be healed, but not dead!

1Luke 17:14, New King James Version
2Luke 17:17, New Living Translation
3Luke 17:19, ibid
4John 14:6, New King James Version
5Matthew 16:26, New King James Version

 

Is it Okay to Lie? Part 3 – Moving From Fear to Trust

 In the movie Liar Liar the main character, Fletcher,  is a pathological liar until his son makes a birthday wish that forces Fletcher to tell the truth for 24 hours.Liar Liar Suddenly a steady stream of “truths” flow from his mouth that berate, insult, and demean others. I doubt anyone would take this Hollywood definition of “truth” for more than the comedic response it’s seeking, but can you tell the truth without hurting others or being hurt yourself? Definitely, yes.

As we’ve discussed, fear is often at the root of our lying. As young people we feared hurting or angering our mom or dad so we said what we thought they wanted to hear. As adults we continue this line of reasoning by conveying what we think our spouses or friends want to hear. Consequently, we still don’t share our hearts, feelings, or thoughts. While this may not seem like a big deal, underneath, resentment, bitterness, and anger can build up and poison us and our relationships.

So how do we stop?no lies

  1. The first thing to understand is God hates lying1. Regardless of how necessary we may mistakenly think it is, we must ask ourselves, “Should I bdoing something God finds abominable?”1
  2. Second, we must realize Satan is recycling old fears—fear of abandonment, fear of inadequacy, and others from our childhood. Think back on the last couple of times you said “A” when you wanted to say “B.” If you had said “B” what would have happened? “My spouse would have gotten mad at me, left me and I’d be all alone.” Really? The consequences we fear are almost always overblown by Satan and would rarely occur if we were obedient to God’s commands. I’m willing to bet your spouse is not the one in ten thousand who’d overreact. More likely, they’d welcome your honesty and feel more secure in the relationship—as long as the truth is conveyed in love.God we trust by Donny Warbritton cropped
  1. Third, the last half of Proverbs 29:25 says, “But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”2 We can have confidence we’re telling the truth in love when we approach situations using the Bible as our guide and God’s Holy Spirit for our power to overcome the fib monster. We must also trust that since God made us with our temperament and likes and dislikes, our opinions, feelings, and thoughts matter. As a result they’re okay to share with others. But first we must trust God.
  1. Lastly, changing a years-long habit won’t happen overnight, so don’t start by walking into your boss and giving him an earful. We want to imitate Jesus not Jim Carey. Begin by confessing your lying habit to God and repenting. Tell your spouse or friend what you’re trying to do. Then start with small “safe” opportunities to stand on the truth.

Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.3 Start today walking in trust and truth and giving thanks to God for your truth-telling victories!

We’ll finish our look at lying by addressing the “Does this outfit make me look fat?” type questions.

1Proverbs 6:17
2Proverbs 29:25, New International Version.
3Matthew 5:37, New King James Version
Coin Image: “God we trust” by Donny Warbritton cropped

Is it Okay to Lie? Part 2 – Getting Ourselves Back

I’ve spent so long hiding everything I feel and everything I am, and making up lies to make it look like I’m noMary, Who am I - Broken Circle Projectrmal, and putting up a front of who I think I should be, that in all honesty, I don’t know who… I really am.”1
This comment is from Mary—an adult child of divorce—as recorded in Karen Klein’s Broken Circle Project. Does this quote speak to your heart? It did to mine.

A staggering revelation
My awareness of this problem came with a speaker’s challenge to “be who we are in Christ” andto be who Christ created us to be.” While pondering his words, I looked at my 40-something self and realized, I  had no idea who God created me to be! Because I was too busy being who I thought others wanted me to be.

I had many labels: Christian, husband, father, manager, brother, teacher, worship leader, confidante, son, and so on. However, these described the outer me. Inside, fear dominated my life in ways that dragged me away from the abundant life Jesus offered. But God led me to Proverbs 29:25:
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”2

Caught in the trap
We don’t hear the word “snare” much today—probably because catching birds for food is out of vogue in most cities and suburbs. But the definition is interesting—particularly in the context of facing our fears. A snare is, “a trapping device or something that lures or entangles the unwary.”3

Most adult children of divorce are oblivious to160-365 by comeonandorra cropped the fears they’ve developed.  Also we tend to be unaware (unwary) of how we use lying as a defense mechanism to cover our fear of rejection, abandonment, or conflict. Sharing how we really feel is deemed too dangerous–even with trusted loved ones and friends. This tendency developed in our youth and by adulthood was second nature to us. But it doesn’t have to be. More important, it can’t be.

You reap what you sow4 is biblical truth. So when we tell lies (even little white ones) they have a way of being discovered. And this often results in the very rejection or abandonment we feared.

So what can we do?
Taking Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare” to heart is an important start to dealing with lying. We must admit that our fears are a snare—a trap. This can be harder than you think, because the fear/lying bond is ingrained in many of us. Think through these questions:

  1. Which of these fears cause you to struggle most: rejection, abandonment, or conflict?
  2. How do you respond when these fears occur?

You’ve probably never connected these dots, but in this two-part video presentation you can learn more about key fears and issues adults with divorced parents face and how to overcome them.

We’ll continue our look at the challenge of overcoming lying in the next blog.

 

1Broken Circle Project, Karen Klein, brokencircleproject.org
2Proverbs 29:25, New International Version.
3 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/snare
4Galatians 6:7

Net image – 160/365 by Comeonandorra

Is it Okay to Lie? Part 1

How was your weekend with your dad?” Fair question—unless your parents are divorced. Then the question’s safety rating matches, “Honey, have I put on weight?” Answering the “weekend” question is easy if you had a lousy weekend. But if it went well, or worse, you had a good time, you can learn at a young age that truth is not always a virtue.child choosing between two parents

Maintaining the status quo in different parental orbits often requires one “truth” at your house and another “truth” at your other parent’s place. Half-truths, distorted truths—lies by any other name—become a reinforced peace-maintaining tool. So we answer Mom’s question with:
“The weekend was a drag, Mom. Shelly is so annoying.”
Oh I’m sorry to hear that,” your mother says. However, the polygraph needle would break off at this point. But peace has triumphed over truth…or has it?

Years later the pattern continues in your marriage.
Is it okay if my girlfriend, Tammy, comes over this weekend?
NO! NO! NO! NO! And again NO!  She is a bad influence, rude, and puts me down all the time!!!!”…you think. But “sure” flows from your lips. But why?

highway sign trust vs fear pngFear is usually the culprit. Early on, fear that Mom would be upset if she knew the truth about your fantastic weekend Dad. Then, fear that your friends would reject you if you didn’t agree with them. Later, fear you’d fail your class if you didn’t adjust to your Prof’s quirky requirements. And soon, fear you’d lose your job if your real feelings came out. Fear your girlfriend or boyfriend would abandon you unless you agreed with everything followed. Finally, you’ve come full circle and fear your spouse will split if you don’t keep the peace. So Tammy stays…and you’re dying inside.

Fear is a cruel taskmaster, and lies have a habit of hurting the receiver and the giver. But is it really lying when you’re just trying to keep the peace? Jesus said, “Let your Yes be yes and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.”1 However, adult children of divorce often say “yes” when we want to say “no” and vice versa. Fear drives this, but lying over time becomes habitual.

Answer these questions:Me by Agron Istrefi  Mirror

  • When was the last time I said “yes” to something when I really wanted to say “no”? (or vice versa)
  • What is the real reason I responded that way?
  • Was that situation typical of how I respond? At home, at work, at play?
  • Is how I felt when I wasn’t truthful reminiscent of a situation in my childhood?

If lying is in your toolbox you’re not alone. But Proverbs 6:16-17 tells us God hates a lying tongue.
“So what am I supposed to do?” We’ll look at that in Is it Okay to Lie – Part 2.

1Matthew 5:37
Mirror image: “Me” by Agron Istrefi