Monthly Archives: July 2012

Trust is better than an orgasm. A blog post on taking risks in relationships…Part 2.

Yes, I said, “orgasm” out loud. I’m a Christian, not a prude.

Last week I wrote on why taking risks was a necessary part of relationships. As I wrote that post, it became evident that there was a second part of relationship risk taking that had to do with choosing who we take that risk with. I think this part really, really counts when calculating risk.

Let’s face it, in most cases our initial attraction to someone else is usually a physical one. We find that other person cute, or funny, or smart, or whatever, but we feel something inside. We feel a rush of excitement, perhaps a little breathless. The urge to find a way to talk to that person becomes tantamount. According to Wikipedia it looks something like this:

That crazy feeling called “love”…

All of these nifty little chemicals on the right side of this diagram give us mostly happy feelings. Nowadays, it’s pretty commonplace to follow our urges to their logical conclusion- a sexual encounter. The chemicals involved in that transaction also introduce a flood of chemicals that make use feel good.

Duh.

However, I think these happiness-inducing chemicals muddy our logic and our ability to think clearly. At the beginning, when we look at that other person we feel those same rush of sensations. And we feel happy. Eventually, those sweeping, romantic feelings, that rush of excitement subside to a degree. Then we are left wondering about this person we are with. Why do they do what they do? Why are they so (insert your word of choice here)? Then we are stuck between a rock and a hard place (sorry, no pun intended), we like how they make us feel, but do we LIKE them?

Relationships are complicated, messy affairs that require an inordinate amount of work to be successful. Trust, communication, compromise, negotiation, kindness, gentleness, are a few of things that make a relationship work. These things take time to build. You have to actually LIKE someone in order to start this process. Call me puritanical if you want to, but I think that starting a relationship based on sex shortcuts the process of getting to know someone, and really liking them for who they are.

In my humble, and unscientific, opinion using logic and thinking clearly are two key elements in choosing someone as a mate. Sure, it’s not as romantic (and fun) as all of the sweep-me-off-my-feet sensations, but I think it’s more important to make wise choices than to be swept off my feet by someone that I’ve just met. And here’s why: the risk of being hurt is higher when I base my desire to be with someone on a physical sensation. That feeling eventually rings hollow.

In my experience, you can be physically attracted to someone, and not even like them. And, if you don’t like someone how can you develop feelings of trust toward them? How can you even communicate clearly with the best interest of your relationship if you don’t feel it’s worth it to try? I mean, really, HOW can you? I don’t think you can. I know I couldn’t. I was physically attracted to my first husband, had sex, got pregnant, then married him. All bad decisions. He was the worst possible kind of person for me. We weren’t even close to being compatible. Yet, because of the sex, I convinced myself he was right for me. I convinced myself that we were “in love” (looking back now I would say we were “in lust”). Then I married him. And, he hurt me in a variety ways, the ultimate hurt being divorce.

I propose that people should take the time to get to know someone BEFORE they get in bed with that someone. I think that people should spend time getting to know that person’s character in a variety of settings. After you have spent some time doing that, then you can make clear, logical choices while calculating the risk of entering into a serious relationship with that person.

Even after you’ve done all of this, you CAN still be hurt. But, I think it less likely to happen because you know this person’s character. You know how they make decisions and why. You know their problems. You know why they are with you. You know if they like you. You know if they are going to stick it out, even when things are rocky. You’ve decided to be with that person based on their character and qualities. A relationship based on trust, is far better than a relationship based on sex. Which, to me, is more important than an orgasm.

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If you read this part, why don’t you leave me a note and let me know you were here? I love it when people say, “Hi!”

Anger that burned deep.

Hello again! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another testimony about overcoming emotional difficulties.  I don’t have another person lined up, so I am going to dish on myself.  So here we go…

It’s kinda tough to pick just one experience that I’ve had in the past 22 years that highlights an emotional difficulty that I have overcome because a) there are so many, and b) they are all interconnected which makes them complex and difficult to articulate clearly.

I have mentioned that my mother was an addict.  Her last addiction was prescription painkillers, which ended up taking her life in a (presumably) accidental overdose.  She was secretive about her addiction, and it was not immediately obvious to me because I had no knowledge about addiction during my childhood.  However, the symptoms of her addiction problem were usually at the forefront of her parenting because she was either at best confusing, or, at worst, abusive.

For example, my mother would periodically become very angry with the rest of the family.  Why she was angry with us was almost always a mystery.  One of the confusing things she would do during these random periods of mystery anger was to not let my sister and I do the weekly cleaning.  She would storm around, bang things, with a face screwed up in anger doing the cleaning.  I would feel awkward and strange.  I was afraid to say anything to mother for fear of upsetting her further.  Richelle and I walked around as if the floor was made of nails (sharp side up) while giving each other furtive looks of confusion and despair.  After a few hours of this, I would be practically begging for her to let me do the cleaning.  Anything to ease the stress and tension I felt.  Then, just as mysteriously, she would get over it.  Very occasionally there was some kind of discussion that really didn’t make any sense or have anything to do with reality.

As a child, these sorts of events caused confusion and fear.  This started embers burning in my soul that would smolder into my adulthood.  As I began working through the hurts of my childhood in counseling, I began to see my mother’s transgressions with anger, hurt, disappointment, and frustration.  These emotions ignited the long- burning embers from adolescence into raging flames.  It took a lot of years, and work, before I could even consider forgiving my mother.

For me, forgiving my mother meant giving up the right to be angry with her.  And believe me, I had felt I had every right to be angry with her for her transgressions.  I think some of you may even agree with me.  However, if unleashed, my anger could be a destructive force that wreak havoc in most areas in life.  I was deeply invested in my rights.  So much so, that God, in His infinite wisdom, had to work every angle to help me to see that holding things against my mother was actually holding myself prisoner to my own anger.  He had some pretty huge mountains to move.  Fiery, raging, burning volcanos. He showed me that I would be paying the consequences for my for my self-righteous attitude, like so much volcanic ash.  I would end up psychologically and spiritually dead, like those poor people on Pompeii.

As God labored to show me the truth, the light began breaking through my eyes, which were tightly shut against it.  Truth always stand the test of time, regardless of what we think or feel about it.  I eventually knew I had a choice to make.  On one hand, my right to be angry with my mother, on the other, forgiving her and moving on.  Forgiving her meant giving up my rights, but it also meant freedom.  Freedom from the burdens of pain.  Freedom from the consequences of my choices.  Freedom to live life to it’s fullest.

As you can probably guess, I chose to give up my rights.  And, indeed, I felt freer.  The rage no longer held me captive, torturing me incessantly, burning me from the inside out.

Today, I mostly look on my relationship with my mother regret and sadness, but, I am (mostly) not angry.  If she were still alive, I might even attempt to have a relationship with her, which is saying something.

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Now, it’s your turn… Do you have something you overcame that you would like to share with the rest of the world?

Don’t clam up. A blog post on taking risks in relationships…Part 1.

Author’s note: As I write this blog, I am finding that there is really two parts to this topic: taking risks in relationships in general, and the process of choosing a person with whom to take a risk.  In the interest of not writing a REALLY long post on both parts, I am going to break this into two parts.

A dear, sweet friend of mine, whom I have known since childhood, has been hurt quite a bit lately by relationships.  As a result of her pain, this appeared on her Facebook page:

While can appreciate the reason for the sentiment, I’m not sure I agree with the idea behind it.

I got married at the age of 20, mostly because I was pregnant and I needed the father’s health insurance to cover the related health care costs.  We had convinced ourselves that we loved each other and that we could make marriage work despite the true reason for marrying.  Little did I know that that marriage would end in disaster.  While I was no angel in this marriage and contributed to the failure of our marriage, I felt I was treated horribly, including, but not limited to, adultery on his part at least once, probably twice. Then, I was left, and divorced, by the person who had pledged to stick with me through thick and thin.

Relationships are risky.   The potential for being hurt, or hurting another, is huge.  People often present the best of themselves at the beginning, then the worst of themselves comes out as time goes on.  Often, the worst of ourselves, and the other person clash, causing chaos in our relationships.  Unless the chaos is effectively worked through or controlled, the result is generally a split (or a divorce if one is married).  It has to be said than in some cases, there is no hope for the relationship, no matter how much work goes into the relationship.  Splitting up with someone you committed  yourself to can cause intense emotional pain.  This pain is akin to having a limb ripped from your body, even if the other person was horrible.  The suffering can go on for years afterwards.   Self-doubt can creep in.  Fear of being hurt again becomes the new paradigm.  Any potential future relationships are affected by past hurts. One can be come overly-cautious in their attempt to try out this new relationship while avoiding true risk.  Which makes the new relationship more likely to fail.  Like I said, it’s risky.

When my marriage failed, I was at the beginning of the long healing journey that I have been on.  Frankly, at the time my marriage failed, I was not capable of managing the hurt associated with ripping and tearing that was going on.  I did not understand myself, nor the reasons that my marriage didn’t work.  I was single for about 7 years before my current husband decided he wanted to date me.  During that 7 years, I had to do a lot work in counseling, and with God, to overcome the terrible feelings of loss, anger, and sadness.  For 7 years, I was a single, working mother struggling to make ends meet, and trying to manage my volatile emotional state and a child who severely struggling as well.

The idea of adding a husband, and stepfather, into the equation was downright scary.  Like so many situations I observed, adding a man into my, and my son’s, life was extremely risky and likely to result in chaos.  What if my son and husband didn’t get along (they didn’t for a long time)?  What if my husband committed adultery like the first one?  What if he left me?  What if he couldn’t deal with the emotional baggage that came with marrying me (he does with a ton of grace)?  What if we just couldn’t work out our problems?  What if one of us gave up hope (I’ve been close a dozen times or more)?  What if my marriage failed?  Taking that step toward marriage again was a huge risk.  It could end in disaster like the first one.

The desire to close oneself off to the world, to potential love, to other people becomes intense after a split with someone you once loved.  Wrapping yourself up in hard shell of safety really only results in a life half lived.  Sure, you are safe from harm, but you are also safe from joy, happiness, fulfillment, and a good, lasting relationship.  This hard-shell reality affects how you react to other people, how you make decisions, how you behave in relationships.  You cannot fully commit to another person when you live your life this way, even if the person you found is the best person for  you.

The heart of the matter is that while putting yourself in a position to not “be let down” feels safe, I believe you are actually risking more than if you allow yourself to take the risk of being hurt.  I think I have made that the point that taking risks is dangerous,  BUT (with capital letters no less), I believe that taking risks is a necessary part of living life to it’s fullest.  Sure, the potential for hurt is there, but the potential for joy is there too.  The hurts described above can eventually heal, if you allow that to happen.  That’s right, you can heal from the hurt.   I would like to add an addendum to this statement: I think that one can make poor choices in partners and end up going the healing process over and over again.  If that’s what’s causing you so much pain, I would question how you choose partners.  So, we are gonna talk about that in part 2 of this post.

You are not forever tainted by your marriage’s, or relationship’s, failure.  You can rise above the associated pain and suffering.  You can place yourself in someone else’s hand again.  And, if you get hurt, you can  heal, again.  Unless you allow yourself to take that risk, you don’t know how something is going turn out.  You can live a a full life with someone by your side.  You can put your trust and hope in someone else’s hand.  Let yourself out of your shell.

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It’s your turn: do believe you can be healed from the hurt caused by failed relationships?

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

Don’t poke that dragon with a stick. It’ll eat you. Or will it?

Didn’t your mother teach you NOT to poke a sleeping dragon?  That you should let sleeping dragons lie?

He looks too cute to be dangerous. Right?

Or was that dogs?

He’s definitely too cute to be dangerous.

Like all reptiles, dragons are great at sleeping.  You know, being cold-blooded and all.  Sleeping is an excellent way to conserve energy.  So, as you can imagine, something as big as a dragon needs lots of sleep.  Except when they don’t.  I mean, a dragon’s got to eat sometimes, right?

In case you’re not catching on to my little metaphor, the sleeping dragons (or dogs) that I am referring to is our emotional troubles.  Stuff from the past is like a sleeping dragon.  Some of us have lots and lots of dragons sleeping together in the dog-pile technique.  Others have one or two.  Either way, I personally, and sincerely believe that sleeping dragons are dangerous.  They can wake up at and wreak havoc on our emotional state, on our relationships, and our life anytime they want to.

Dragons are smart creatures.  They like to sleep in dark corners, letting us know they’re there, but never really fully engaging us.  They’re happy there in their comfy little corner.  Because of the shadows, we can’t really see what they’re doing.  But, believe you me, they are causing trouble.

Un-dealt with emotional problems come out various forms, and we often don’t even realize it.  Mostly because our reactions are normal…to us.  THEY run your life.  THEY decide how and when you behave and interact with your environment.  Like when my husband innocently says something that sets off an angry reaction in me.  Or, when a sudden, overwhelming fear of enclosed spaces keeps me from having fun.  Or, when I sling into a deep depression for no apparent reason.  Or, when I have (yet another) bout of anxiety at the prospect of meeting new people.  All of these reactions come from somewhere.   I learned them growing up.  All of these reactions can cause me problems as an adult.  They stunt my growth.  They keep me from fully engaging in life.  They harm my relationships.  And most importantly, they keep me back from being who I was meant to be.

If you decide to take control of the situation, you WILL have to face your dragons head on.  Sure, once you poke them and wake them up they are going to growl and stomp and threaten to eat you.  They might even throw a flame or two your way.

Remember this guy?

But, here’s the thing:  YOU are in control of the dragons.  YOU are the master of THEIR fate.  It’s not the other way around.  Because as Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  You hold the secret weapons that defeat the dragons.  You know their vulnerabilities.  You know where that soft spot is and can drive in your sword (or lance if you prefer).  If you do, you will truly be at peace.  You will never have to worry about what that dragon will do next.  You can get on with your life and live it to the fullest.

Pretty cool, huh?

So, I say, don’t let the sleeping dragons lie there forever.  Take up your sword, your spear, your counseling sessions and deliberately, and methodically, deal that dragon it’s death blow.

You’ll then be free from it’s grip.  Forever.

I promise.

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Your turn, which weapon do you prefer?

How well do you tend your garden?

This is the beginning of a new series.  I am pleased and thrilled to start this with a post from my Aunt Barbara.  She is my mother’s older sister.  I have several fond memories of my Aunt Barbara from my childhood, but my favoritest of all was the day she gave me some earrings in a little porcelain box for my birthday that had a rose on it.  She told me that I was created to be unique and special.  No one else is like me.  I don’t know if I still  have that little box, but the memory is still with me.  Even after all these years.  

Aunt Barbara agreed to share her experiences with alcoholism with the world.  So here you go…


I believe we are all born as a new, fresh garden. The ideals and morals are taught, from our parents, dictate how our garden will flourish and nourish. I, unfortunately, was raised by two practicing alcoholic parents. Their disease became so bad that I and five siblings were placed in foster homes and torn apart.

To this day I have no idea where my siblings are, except my younger sister who passed away with her addiction. In this environment, my garden was not well-tended, but trashed and told that I had no rights to protect or defend the boundaries of my life. This carried on into my adulthood, and I allowed anyone and anything in to my garden that became trashed and a toxic waste site. I lived with abuse, guilt and anger strewn all over my yard, and the only escape was with what I knew best, alcohol. Now, not only did I allow the wrong people in my yard, I got to the point that alcohol would ease the pain and I did not care to tend my garden, I could survive in a blur.

Four years ago I was lucky enough to have survived a car accident that totaled my car and a fire hydrant, but allowed me the opportunity to look at my yard. What a mess. Waste and lack of care was killing my garden, I had no idea how to clean out the weeds and life with any control over my garden. I was fortunate to check into a six month alcohol recovery program, and now I can look at each new day with surprise and gladness in my heart that I can trend my garden. I have a choice what I grow, and I no longer need to tend other people’s garden or allow weeds or garbage in my garden.

This is what ‘Boundaries” are all about. I suggest if you are struggling, look around your garden, are there weeds of distrust and fear, lack of responsibility, addiction or inability to live life fully in your space? If so, you can learn to heal your soil, yank out the weeds and live life so much more fully. You may not even know what you want to grow; fear can let you stay at the comfortable junk yard.

 

But, with some work, you can proudly life in a beautiful garden. There is a book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend that explain how we can” learn to say yes, how to say no take control of your life”. I wish all a chance to recover their yard and be the beauty God intended you to be.

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My Aunt Barbara and her family…

Barbara Light is a senior citizen with six beautiful, wonderful adult children and eight grandchildren, with another on the way.  She is finally going to college as a fulfillment of a long ago dream.  She is also a recovering alcoholic. This is her story, and she hope it helps just one other person out in their garden.