7 Intimacy Killers That Happen After Valentine’s Day

intimacy-killers-valentinesAs I’ve interacted with couples from all over the world, I’ve found that many of the issues that ultimately lead to infidelity and divorce creep in unintentionally. People don’t usually set out to sabotage their marriage and wind up in divorce court, but small choices can ultimately lead to big disasters.

Subtle poor choices along the way can pile up like a snowball rolling down a hill until it’s big enough to start an avalanche of consequences.

Unfortunately too many couples think they only need to pay attention to their marriage when it’s expected or on special occasions … like Valentine’s Day.

However, the truth is that marriage is something that requires daily investment and review. Not just once a year.

It’s because of this that we started StrongerMarriages.com and paid a ton of money to get the word out about investing in your marriage via billboards.

Yes, we believe in marriage that much that the investment was worth it.

Below are seven of the most common intimacy killers that can harm a marriage (even after a nice Valentine’s Day). Avoid these and you’ll go a long way toward safeguarding your marriage.

(In no particular order):

1. Not wearing a wedding ring.

People might just not be into jewelry or not think it’s a big deal, but wearing a ring can be a first line of defense against adultery. When you meet new people, one of the first things they’ll notice about you is whether or not you’re wearing a ring. They’ll make assumptions about your “availability” based on the presence or absence of a ring.

2. Digital distractions.

I’ll admit it: sometimes I give my iPhone more attention than I give my wife! Do your best to keep screens turned off as much as possible when you’re together with your spouse. Talking with your spouse is always better than texting with somebody else (or playing Candy Crush, or checking Facebook, or…).

3. Inconsistency in parenting.

Raising kids is one of the most sacred duties on earth, but it can also harm your marriage if you don’t have a unified approach with your spouse. Ashley and I don’t argue much, but many (if not most) of our disagreements have come out of miscommunications about parenting.

4. Flirting.

This one is two-fold, because we harm our marriages when we STOP flirting with our spouse or when we START flirting with anybody else! Flirting within marriage is always helpful, but flirting outside of your marriage is always harmful! 

5. Porn and/or graphic romance novels.

Many couples think porn and/or reading graphically sexual novels are a harmless fantasy that can actually spice things up in the bedroom if they do it together, but the truth is that these things are an enemy of real intimacy. Don’t just be physically monogamous; be mentally monogamous as well. And I’d encourage you to add some accountability and porn-blocking software on your devices to protect your marriage and family. Check out the resource at www.X3watch.com.

6. Autopilot.

Cable TV companies give their best rates and service at the beginning but then treat you much worse after the “promotional period” expires. Sadly, many marriages look like this. We give each other our best at the beginning of the relationship, but then get into “autopilot” and stop giving each other our best. Don’t take each other for granted.

7. Negative friends.

Your friends have the unique ability to encourage your marriage or to discourage it. Make sure you’re hanging out with people who love you AND your spouse. Choose friends who will strengthen your character, and remove yourself from people who would tempt you to compromise your character.

Even if you’ve found your marriage falling into some of these “intimacy killers,” don’t lose hope! Make the decision TODAY to change course, and in time, your marriage can become more vibrant and fulfilling than ever before.

Check out StrongerMarriages.com and sign up for our 30 Days To A Stronger Marriage campaign. Get FREE daily marriage tips and advice from all the experts at StrongerMarriages.

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3 Ways to Stop Blaming Others and Finally Own Your Porn Problem

Blame is easy, especially when it comes to your porn problem. Why?

Because we don’t have to face the mirror. Facing ourselves as we really are is painful, messy work. To really see the ugliness inside threatens our entire network of excuses and forces us to see: I have a slice of responsibility here.

Every time I counsel someone, eventually I hear it.

“If it wasn’t for this city—this church—this relationship—my family—my job—my friends—then I wouldn’t be stuck in this addiction—this cycle—this problem.”

And that could very well be true. There are a lot of things outside our control.

Watch this video before you read on:

But when it comes to your porn problem, I want to discuss situations where we are engaged in destructive habits and behaviors, such as addiction or disengagement. I won’t speak to situations where others have legitimately hurt you outside your control, because no one can blame you for these things.

Here are three ways to stop blaming others and finally own our part of the problem.

1) Make a preemptive strike against blame: name it out loud and clear the air.

In the above video, author and research professor Brené Brown says, “The first thing you want to know is whose fault it is … Because it gives us some semblance of control.”

Our instant defense mechanism when something goes wrong is to say, “Tag, you’re it.” Our egos are constantly trying to protect us from feeling wrong, because we associate this with being unloved or unaccepted. All this makes a logical sort of sense, but it’s dangerous, because our initial instinct is to drag others down with us. This in turn only justifies and reinforces our cycle of destruction.

We’ve been down this road. “My boss is after me and I hate my job and my girlfriend clicked ‘like’ on some other guy’s picture, so I need to release stress—” which then gives us a mental permission slip to bow to our porn problem. We feed our bad habits with blame. This loop can go on forever.

Yet if we struck down this Hydra of Blame like a whack-a-mole before it got to others or ourselves, the inner monologue might change to: “My boss seems to be after me, but maybe I can ask him what’s really going on. I hate my job, but maybe I can find a better way to love my work or look for a better job. I feel a little silly about being upset at my girlfriend over a picture, but maybe I can talk openly with her about what that’s doing to me.”

Thinking this way, as Brené Brown implies, suddenly lets go of control and creates a scary uncertainty. But it also exposes our blame-game for what it is: an excuse to use, stay mad, or stay withdrawn. When blame is named, it shrivels up and loses power.

The way to cut off the first sprout of blame is to free ourselves and others from the immediate conspiracy theories that pop up in our heads, and to offer openness instead.

2) Specific accountability revokes the urge to spread the blame.

Brené Brown states a fascinating find from her research:

“Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability … People who blame a lot seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold people accountable, themselves included, because we spend all our time and energy raging for fifteen seconds and figuring out who’s fault something is.”

The more we blame, the less accountable we are. The inverse is true: the more accountable we are, the less we blame. This is huge when it comes to addressing our porn problem.

We’ve each had that weird moment in the shower when we remember the time we did something hurtful or embarrassing or just plain destructive. And we twitch. Or yell. Or clench a fist. Or we make up an angry justification about why it had to happen.

Our brains are always trying to restore the dissonance between “I ought to” and “I didn’t.” Somehow, we have to off-load this discomfort and pain of falling short in our lives. It might come out later at dinner in an argument, or at work on a co-worker, or alone with a computer.

This blame tactic is a shotgun spray. Imagine the mess you’d make if you filled a big bucket and swung it around in a huge circle. This is the “raging for fifteen seconds.” We do this all the time.

Instead, holding ourselves accountable as specifically as possible will dislocate our urge to spread the blame. It has to be specific and surgical. If our urge to shotgun the blame is like splashing that bucket on the walls, then our need to be accountable will have to be like a scalpel on a tumor. That means owning a piece of the responsibility pie.

This also means: Stopping blame means ending our demonization of the vague. No more “they” and “them” and “those people.” No more generalizations like, “I’m stupid” or “They’re bad.” Accountability is thoughtful, nuanced, and splits atoms down to real reasons. That’s how we repair the soul and find a better road away from our porn problem: by close examination of what’s happening and why.

3) Be gentle and generous with yourself.

The video has a remarkable point that goes by quickly:

“I’d rather it be my fault than no one’s fault.”

The implication here is: If I can’t blame others, I will blame myself.

In Brené Brown’s other research (especially in her book Daring Greatly), she shows that our capacity for compassion is directly related to how much compassion we have for ourselves.

So saying “It’s their fault” is a result of avoiding, “It’s my fault,” which means the blame game started with blaming myself. We blame others only as much as first blamed ourselves. This means: Completely killing blame can only be accomplished by a self-given generosity.

Most addicts I know are constantly sliding down a spiral of self-punishment and resignation. “I already messed up, so I might as well keep going.” They might blame others for a while, but underneath this off-loading is self-loathing. Blame says, “This is who they’re always going to be” and “This is who I’m always going to be.” It’s why we stay stuck in addiction and midnight arguments and resentful outbursts. If someone thinks they’re unloved, they’ll keep doing the things that keep them “unlovable.”

The best way out of your porn problem is to find the right balance between love and truth. It’s to have a gracious, gentle accountability, with a generous understanding of why we do what we do, without making excuses for it. Instead of pointing fingers, we point a way forward. “I did something wrong, but I can make this right.” This requires a mentor who is compassionate but convicting. It requires a friend who won’t let you off the hook but will receive you with open arms, always.

To stop blaming others, we must uproot the burden of blame we place on ourselves.

Someone has to be willing to stand up to you (and that might be you).

But someone has to be willing to offer grace, too (and that might also be you).

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This girl was an unknown quantity to him. It felt really strange sitting in a restaurant, and being a bit apprehensive about the rest of the evening. Most of the London escorts were quite predictable, he sort of knew what was going to happen. They would have dinner, and go back to his place, but this girl seemed to not let on what she was thinking. The blonde hair fell over her shoulders, and couple of curls made their way to her generous bust and cleavage. He could not help to be drawn in that direction, and he could see that she was following the movement of his eyes.

All of a sudden he started to feel like a young man on his first dated. He remembered how he just to date an older woman when he was about 19 years old, this girl made him feel the same way. Worried that he might lose control of himself, he poured another glass of wine for her. She was still talking to him in that sexy voice of hers, and he felt his toes curl up involuntary in his shoes. Perhaps, he should just forget about the rest of the date, pay the bill and go home alone.

She followed him to the taxi like so many other London escorts had done before her. He still wasn’t sure if he was ready for her, but like on auto pilot, he asked her to join him. The London cab driver did even seem to pick up on the tension in between, maybe he knew what was going to happen, London escorts frequently used cab services to visit dates. But this was different somehow. In a way, he felt that he was bring home a killer. It was like she was a tiger ready to pounce at any minute.

She did not pounce, she overwhelmed him. None of the London escorts he had dated before could compare to this girl. Afterwards, he could not remember very much of their night together. It seemed like almost a surreal experience, and in the morning he was not sure if it had happen at all. On waking up, he had looked for traces and signs of her, but there was nothing. She was gone out of his life. In the end, he looked at the London escorts agency web site, so that he could see her picture again, but it wasn’t there. He called the agency to ask after her, but they did not know her name. He was sure he had arranged the date through them, but there was no trace of her. Who had she been…