posted by on Christian Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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So, we want to talk about living together before we get married.
Now, we know the Bible has some very specific things to say about sexual sin, and nobody would ever pretend that moving in together wouldn’t be coupled with a very active sexual relationship. And I’m sure we’d also agree that sexual convenience would have to be one of the major factors in deciding to live together in the first place.

That’s why, when we describe the live-together home in the following drawings, we’ve placed the bed in the center of the home. Because the bed, after all, is the biggest reason we’re living there at all.

Now, the first thing we want to notice about our live-together home is that it has only three walls. That’s because nothing is really permanent about this relationship. Now, it’s not that we don’t love each other in this relationship, we clearly do. But the very nature of our live-together commitment is that we can end it at any time without any messy and expensive legal and financial mumbo-jumbo.

So, in our live together home, we can mostly come and go as we please. And the only semi-permanent life-arrangements we need to work out are – who’s going to pay for what – and when are they going to pay it. And our live together arrangement will usually allow each of us to maintain our separate bank accounts and it will allow us to lead a mostly separate life, only commingling those things that are easy and don’t produce much conflict.

So, our live-together relationship is really the best of all worlds. And as long as the sex is good – and the food is good –  then everything is good in our breezy little three-walled home – where we wake up every morning with the unspoken understanding that both of us are totally free to leave the home and the relationship at any time. And this unspoken lack of permanence mostly relieves all the pressure and responsibility that is always present in the actual life-long commitment of marriage. So, our live-together relationship isn’t really preparing us for a lasting marriage, it’s mostly setting us up for an emotional disaster.

That’s because nothing easy lasts forever. See, living together doesn’t really fulfill the God-given desire within each of us for a permanent marriage commitment. And often, after a length of time has passed in the live-together relationship, one of the two partners (usually the woman) will start to become impatient with the lack of permanence and commitment in the relationship, and she will often begin to clamor to get married.

Now, most men (particularly those who are willing to enter into this kind of arrangement in the first place) are usually perfectly happy to remain in the uncommitted state of living together indefinitely. But, with enough well-directed pressure, and given the man’s desire to please his partner (and to keep the sexual faucet open), a man will usually agree to be united with his partner in marriage. And then our easy, breezy live-together couple will become husband and wife. And they will vow not to part from each other until death.

And, at the moment our newly-married couple returns to their love nest, they will discover the previously missing fourth wall has been added to their home. And now, they are no longer free to come and go as they please. Now, every annoying and dysfunctional thing about their partner that used to not matter so much, has taken on a much greater significance because now it’s a permanent part of their lives together.

And now, our former easy-breezy couple begins have conflict over things that never mattered before, because neither of them were ever really permanently responsible for each other before. And the realization begins to sink in, that everything that one of them does will have a life-long effect on the other persons life. And each of these things must be confronted immediately. So the couple starts to argue about money; they begin to fight about jealousy and family issues; and they begin to have heated discussions about planning for the future. And it starts to become clear that, this marriage will sadly not go the distance.

And it’s all so unnecessary, because each of these conflict areas could have been uncovered and dealt with easily in a pure and discovery-laden courtship. And maybe these issues might have dissolved the courtship, but that’s way less painful and permanent than a divorce.
So, those are my feelings; I’d love to hear yours.

posted by on Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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We want to talk about narcissists because it’s a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. But many people who’ve been in a relationship with a true narcissist don’t necessarily know what exactly has happened to them, and they are often left simply searching for answers.

So we want to briefly define what a narcissist actually is, we want to give you some concrete steps that will assist you in moving towards recovery from your controlling relationship, and we also want to help you insulate your life from ever entertaining a narcissist in the future.

What A Narcissist Is.

First of all, we have to establish that a true narcissist is not just incredibly selfish; they are not simply a brand of highly dominant and controlling individual – those might be borderline narcissists – but a true narcissist is actually a mentally ill psychopath, and they are totally incapable of having a mutually sustainable relationship.

We are going to describe the personality and relationship traits that are common to a true narcissist, and it might make you uncomfortable to think about, but whether or not you’ve been in a relationship with a true narcissist, you must be able to recognize them, and you must take steps to move into healthy relationships. These steps are vital because the pool of available men and women gets more shallow as we age, and a narcissist can hide in the church fairly easily. This is real stuff folks; these people are bad news. They are deceitful and without conscience, and they will mess with your life big time.

We’ve established that a true narcissist is not just selfish, they are actually mentally ill. And it’s not that they have little conscience, they actually have no conscience at all. And the reason they can hide so well in the church is because Christians tend to not judge; and we assume the best in everyone we meet; and a narcissist will make a very good first impression. But it’s not until we get close to them that we discover their true nature, and by then it’s often too late because they’ve captured our hearts.

The best way to describe a true narcissist is to envision a person who lives in a straw house. And we’re not talking about straw bales here; we’re talking about individual straws piled one on top of the other, and each of these straws represents an individual lie or piece of deception.
Because we are talking here, about a person who has built his or her entire life upon one lie after another; and nothing about this person is actually true.

Now, you will never see the inside of this straw house until you are captured in the relationship, but the outside will invariably have a nice coat of paint. Your narcissist will never tell you their house is made of straw, but early on in the relationship you might notice a telltale piece, and your narcissist will simply say that it must have stuck when they were mowing the lawn. And you will naturally believe them, because that’s what Christians do.

Now, all this deception is still fairly innocuous, because you still haven’t gotten inside the house. But once your narcissist sees you as a willing candidate to be controlled and manipulated, he or she will invite you into the straw house, and that’s where the wild ride really starts.

Because, once a narcissist gains control of your heart, they will wrap you in their web of lies and deceit. And the first thing you must realize about your relationship with a narcissist is that everything you’ve ever had with them; and everything you ever will have with them is a lie.
And it isn’t that it might be a partial truth. Everything this person does and says is a complete fabrication.

So, every “I love you”; every “I hate you”; every “You’re worthless”; every “You belong in a mental institution”; every “The whole world hates you”; and every “No-one will ever love you but me”… is to a narcissist, a carefully designed fabrication to keep you defensive, off-balance and under his or her control; because this is a person who literally has no form of conscience whatsoever.

And a true narcissist will offer many other lies as well, because the sense of self-entitlement this person carries is simply beyond measure. A true narcissist genuinely believes they are supreme in nature, and they truly have a divine right to anything they want.  So it’s normal for a narcissist to lie about affairs; about money issues; about accountability issues, etc and etc. And you can expect a narcissist to lie about stupid things as well, like whether or not they bought peanut butter or put gas in the car. And all of this is because a narcissist simply builds his or her life upon nothing but lies and deceit.

Now we’re not saying that all liars and cheaters are narcissists, we’re trying to make a clear distinction here. If you’ve ever had a narcissist in your life, you will see the traits immediately, and we want to help you. If you’ve never had one in your life, you truly don’t want one.

Projecting Our Feelings

If you are a caring person, you probably have a fairly normal conscience. And your normal intuition when you interact with another person is to apply your sense of conscience and morality into that person. In terms of psychology, this is called “Projection” and it’s a very normal trait. In other words, you will usually believe the best in others. And you would find it very hard to believe that a person, who could be so very charming at the start of a courtship, might wind up being a literal monster, that  truly has no sense of conscience or morality at all.

So, if you had a relationship with a true narcissist, you would come away from that relationship feeling simply incredulous that all of the life and love you invested in that person was fictitious, and you would play each and every scene over and over in your mind, until you begin to believe that something must truly be wrong with you.

But we are here to tell you in no uncertain terms, that there is nothing wrong with you, other than the fact that you fell for a narcissist, and this person used and extorted your life for the entire time you were together. And we also know this is not an easy truth for you to accept.

We want to make it very clear, that a true narcissist is psychologically sick, and you can never have a true relationship with them, nor will you ever be able to help them. And if you were in a relationship with a narcissist, this discussion might be uncomfortable, but it will be helpful in your healing to know the truth about your experience, however bad or ugly it might have been.

A narcissist cannot have a conversation with someone under their control without turning it into a verbal competition.

Once you are involved with a narcissist and you fall under their control, you will notice very quickly that he or she is a completely different person in public than in private. This is part of the deception. But daring to say anything to a narcissist that is contrary to their view, will invariably set you up for a verbal beat- down that will commence the minute you are out of public sight.

A narcissist might be gracious and kind in public, but he or she will be brutal in private to someone under his or her control.

If you remember the analogy we used earlier about the straw house, the outside is always well kept, but the inside is often quite unfinished. In other words, once a narcissist controls you to the point of letting you into their straw house, the exposed straws and awkward matrix of lies and deceit upon which his or her life is built will become more obvious. And you might feel entitled, because of your intimate relationship, to ask questions of your narcissist about the inconsistencies in their life. But you will learn very quickly that you must never do that, because you will be faced with a personal onslaught of verbal violence and brutal humiliation that will make you wish you’d never opened your mouth.

And, once your narcissist has thoroughly victimized you, he or she will magically turn the whole attack around to make you feel like you somehow victimized them by questioning his or her supreme authority. Your narcissist will then guilt you into offering them an apology, along with a promise that you will never question him or her again.

When you challenge your narcissist in their lies, when you reasonably counter their accusations and cruelty, when you suggest they are not perfect, or when you bring up their lack of giving in to the relationship, you will be subjected to an onslaught of twisted chaos and drama that is designed from the beginning to punish you for even suggesting that your narcissist is anything other than far superior to you and everyone else.

Narcissists don’t have conversations. They invariably compete to win at any cost. Compromise is never the goal, and every conversation is seen as a challenge to their ultimate and final authority – and an attack upon their straw house of lies and deception. Those challenges will always be met and conquered with extreme prejudice.

A narcissist will surround themselves with enablers.

A narcissist will only tolerate those around them who are either completely charmed by their presence to the point of believing in their every word and deed, or those who’ve been berated into remaining silent in the best interest of peace and quiet. The narcissist will certainly eliminate anyone from their lives that doesn’t fall into one of these two categories, and they will invariably make the dropped person believe the elimination was completely their fault.

So, a narcissist takes themselves very seriously indeed, and he or she is very good at controlling and manipulating the people and conversations that surround their lives.
And a narcissist tends to be a very private person, because so much of his or her life simply cannot stand the light of day.

A narcissist will soothe the guilt of his or her secret sin
by accusing the ones they control of those very sins.

This tactic is one of the narcissist’s favorite weapons.
A true narcissist would never survive in a relationship with an inherently strong person, or with someone who was possessed with an equally bad character. A narcissist invariably chooses someone who is soft- hearted and basically good. This is because a normal and good person lives out their lives in plain sight, but a narcissist lives the majority of his or her life in a secret place.

Again, a narcissist is a different person in public than he or she is in private. And the private life of a narcissist is quietly filled with secret sin and secret guilt. So, to soothe his or her guilt, a narcissist will invariably accuse those around them of living in the same secret sin, and of having the same debauched motives as they do.

A narcissist is always selfish, so he or she will privately impugn the motives of someone who is not. A narcissist is always unkind, so he or she will privately rage about someone who is generous. A narcissist feels no love for anyone but themselves, and they care only for their own wants and desires, so a narcissist will often have multiple sexual partners going at any one time. To cover the guilt of these affairs, the narcissist will invariably accuse their faithful partner of cheating and philandery.

And, by placing the guilt of their own secret sin upon those who are close to them, the narcissist feels a sense of confession. But the one whom the narcissist controls will be left further confused and demoralized. And, in the twisted mind of the narcissist, that’s a win-win.

A narcissist will operate secretly in the life of
someone they control, to confuse, to demoralize,
and to convince that person they are going insane.

This insidious process is called gaslighting because gas lights cast long shadows that enable a person to hide. Gaslighting is a truly despicable form of psychological abuse because it’s all done in secret to cause someone to lose their trust in what they actually see and hear.

Narcissists use this tactic in conversations by changing certain facts and by replacing other facts with lies. This tactic is designed to systematically dismantle the victim’s ability to trust their own judgment and undermine their confidence to the point where they begin to doubt their own memories and judgments, thus rendering them highly vulnerable to the opinion of the narcissist.

For example, a narcissist might capitalize on an incident where you forgot something, by reminding you of other instances that may not have happened. The narcissist might hide your keys or rearrange your things. They might even remove the gas from your car after you filled the tank. And all of these tricks are a behind-the-scenes ploy to cause you to doubt what you think, hear and see.

Then when a difference in opinion arises, or you expose a discrepancy in their facade, the narcissist can say with total conviction that you really didn’t correctly see or hear the evidence or the discrepancy, because your mind and memory are faulty, therefore causing you to ultimately accept the narcissist’s version of the truth.

So, what should we do now?

If you are reading this divorce recovery workbook, it is our best guess that you are divorced or separated, and that makes you single. If the preceding pages have not accurately described anyone in your past, you are indeed fortunate, and you can use this information to identify this behavior in any potential relationship partner.

If the preceding pages have described a past relationship partner, then you should seek out more information and support. There are many resources available to you.

Getting support is so important, because, while all break- ups are hard, breaking up with a narcissist is like coming out of hell. And you must have help in the early stages of your breakup to remind you of how bad it was, in order to avoid any temptation to return to the fire.

We recommend removing any and all access you might have to this person, and also removing from your life, any past reminders of your life together. You must bury this person quickly, or you might resurrect them.

We also recommend that you eliminate any form of contact your narcissist might use to get to you. This might include changing your number, your habits, etc.. You must protect yourself from getting “Hoovered,” or being “Sucked back in” to that relationship.

It’s normal for you to look back. It’s normal for you to believe that your narcissist can change and become a good person. But the sad fact is, they don’t recover, and they don’t repent. And you must let them go.

As always, we truly welcome your comments.

posted by on Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement

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Cally, over at drivethrudivorcerecovery asked me to post this up on our blog… I’m happy to do it…  :-)
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Visit drivethrudivorcerecovery.com for weekly articles that will hold your hand and make things easier for you.

Undergoing a divorce or separation is a human experience, if felt deep within, leaves you as though your world has been shattered into a million little pieces. It may very well be.

  • Maybe you lost your home over the “half-half” court settlement.
  • Maybe you get to see your children four days every month.
  • Maybe you have to drive an extra three hours to see your children now
  • Deep within you, you feel the pangs of loneliness.

Before going any further, remember this. If you are having the slightest idea of separating form your spouse, STOP right there. Don’t think about it, don’t dwell on it, and don’t watch Hollywood movies that will reinforce your thinking of divorce.

Work on the marriage that you have.

You are smart if you work on your marriage. You are in fact brilliant to stay married and work on your situation.

If you are separated, here are some things that might help.

  • The first step begins in prayer. Ask someone way more powerful than you to take over your load. It will happen… if you simply ask.
  • Pay attention to legal matters diligently, if you have any
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. If your spouse cheated on you, the way for you to feel powerful is not by cheating on your spouse. Being sexually abstinent at this time is a smart thing to do.
  • Give time for your emotions to heal. Imagine this, when you have a bloody wound on your knee that needs surgery of some sort, do you keep it open and keep poking pins in there? No! Divorce is a huge internal wound. Don’t keep poking at it by jumping from relationship to relationship.
  • Give your internal wounds time to heal.
  • And again,  prayer, and a relationship with Jesus is your answer for long term happiness.

www.drivethrudivorcerecovery.com

e-mail: drivethrurecovery@gmail.com


posted by on Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement

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There’s a foreword to this story…  I’ve met Justin and his story is compelling indeed. We’ve actually turned this story into a book we’ve titled, “Down The Rabbit Hole”… It’s on Amazon from Graceprint Books, and you can find it here – Jeff

My name is Justin and this is my story…
I am 40-something years old and I’m from the desert area of Southern California. I was a Marine who became a civilian construction contractor with the military upon my release from active duty.  I got married relatively young, and I thought my marriage was pretty typical. I was a good husband and father to my wife and three kids. In the twelve years of our marriage, we had some periods of separation that were problematic, but I thought we could weather the storm.

My wife, however decided to divorce, and I felt brutalized beyond belief. My faith was challenged to its core and I didn’t do very well. I moved to a rental house near our former home and I tried my best to pay the child support and maintain a home for my kids in the shared custody situation I was in. It was emotionally strangling for me, as I tried to compete for the affection and attention of my children. And I found I was losing the battle. As my kids grew up, and one by one began to choose their allegiance to her instead of me.
|| Read more

posted by on Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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It seems to depend a lot upon our self-talk; upon the story we develop about what happened; and upon whether we believe that our lives are set in stone, or whether we are flexible enough to change.

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.”

It’s probably normal for us to ask ourselves, after a relationship or marriage failure: What went wrong? And, having asked that question, we usually go to work to create an answer (often with very incomplete information to work with), so we can have a story for ourselves and others. And in telling and retelling this story, we typically create an analysis of the event, according to how we perceive it to have happened.

So, we tell a story. And in some cases, this story can be positive, helping us to make sense of—and come to positive terms with this painful thing that has happened to us.  Sometimes though, our storytelling process can be very negative, where we compound our pain with self-deprecating verbiage that serves to tear us down rather than to simply tell the truth about the situation. In other words, instead of being our own best friend, we are, in our self-talk, our own worst enemy.

So, we want to look at why some people are haunted by the ghosts of their past breakup(s), often for very long periods of time, while others (sometimes our partners in these relationships) have seemed to move forward with the appearance that nothing significant has happened to them. || Read more

posted by on Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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We’re starting a new series here on the Grace For Divorce Blog page. We’re calling it, “This is my story.” We’ve wanted for a long time, to create a forum for those who have come through a traumatic learning experience, and have seen God’s grace in it, to share that experience for the benefit, encouragement, or education of others. So if you have a story, we encourage you to contact us via our email and we’ll take it from there. You can always trust that we’ll never publish your true name, or that of anyone else in your story, so you can be helpful and safe.

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I’m not sure where to begin with this story.  I always thought I was a pretty smart woman.  When my 26 year marriage ended in divorce, I really thought I had all my emotions in check and all my needs under control. But obviously I didn’t. I had really determined in my life, that I would never become one of those women who couldn’t handle being alone. I was going to be the strong one.

Then, about two years ago, I really felt like it was time for me to start dating. But I was in a small church with no available single men. And, after praying fervently for several months for God to send me “His perfect one,” my impatience and worldly reasoning led me to the Internet, and to match.com. Now I had been to one of Jeff and Joanne’s Grace for Divorce classes, and I certainly knew from that class, that people are simply not candid on those sites, but I really thought I would be smarter and more careful than everyone else.
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I edited this from a Blog by Jazmine Hughes

Are you a Christian?
Where do you serve? How often?
Are you a giver? Do you tithe?
Do you want to have more children?
Are you gonna eat all of that sandwich?
How close will we be to your parents?
OK, well, can I at least have half of the sandwich?
Do you expect me to hang with your friends?
How will we handle money, debt and savings?
How important is equality in marriage?
I can’t believe I can’t have half—can I at least have a BITE?!
If we hit a rough patch, will we go to counseling?
What will our morning routine be? Our evening routine?
How will we divide household chores?
You’re being super rude with this sandwich. Do you need a nap?
Are we able to openly talk about our physical needs and wants?
How, where and when will we travel?
OK, that part has tomato in it, can I have the other part?
Where will we spend the holidays?
What the heck is bugging you right now?
Would you ever snoop in my phone? Can I snoop in yours?
Where would we live? Where would we retire?
How much affection do you need in a given day?
Why don’t you trust me?
Do you like animals? Will we have a pet?
Do you have a plan to care for your parents?
OK, sorry I called you an “insecure sandwich hog.” Don’t you ever say impulsive things?
What about your health history? Is there anything we should prepare for?
If I really needed to quit my job, would you support us?
When have I ever not shared my sandwich with you?
When have I ever liked tomatoes?!
Are you afraid of getting older?
Have you ever committed a crime?
Do you want to just eat the tomato-y part and I’ll eat the rest?
Do you think that maybe we’re not right for each other after all?

posted by on Biblical Opinion, Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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Anyone we might choose to marry would certainly be a little wrong for us. I believe it’s wise to be appropriately pessimistic, because perfection in human beings is not really attainable this side of heaven. Nevertheless, we sometimes encounter couples who are able to keep the magic happening in their relationships in spite of the imperfections, and we also encounter couples who exhibit such a grinding mismatch and deep-seated incompatibility, that we have to conclude, that regardless of our spiritual beliefs in the sanctity of marriage and the existence of God’s perfect one for us, there are some couples who simply should not have gotten married in the first place. || Read more

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Couples in the dating stages of a relationship in the twenty-first century are under a lot of pressure to perform for each other in each of the twelve months of the year, but if you believe the folks who keep track of posted relationship changes on Facebook, the months of December and January are the most prolific times for people to change their status from being “in a relationship” to “single”.

Now, I know that terminating a relationship involves a lot more emotional catharsis than just changing your Facebook status, but I don’t think that ending a dating relationship at any stage, is necessarily a bad thing. We certainly know that ending a romantic relationship before we enter into marriage with someone is way better than terminating a previously romantic relationship after we’ve entered into marriage with someone.

See, I believe in a very long and very pure, face-to-face courtship that is investigative in nature, because I believe that every person has the right to truly know and truly bond with the genuine nature of an individual, before he or she makes the permanent promise to marry someone – and if a behavior, habit, attitude or character issue emerges in the course of that long, investigative courtship that either of you finds to be untenable or deal-breaking, then I believe that it’s perfectly okay to end the relationship and never look back.

Often the holiday seasons bring about situations that expose the parts of our lives that would otherwise remain hidden, but we also know that nothing remains hidden after we marry someone, so we should embrace these opportunities to look into each other’s lives and family interactions during the holiday season, to see the true picture of another person’s life.  Maybe we’ll discover the other person is overly (or underly) gift-oriented (read, this person is either too cheap or too extravagant to the point of being financially irresponsible in his or her holiday gifting.

Maybe the holidays will expose a level of dysfunction within your person or his or her family members that you cannot live with – or maybe this season will expose within your person, a level of anger, emotional neediness, or unreadiness to make a permanent commitment that will make it necessary for you to change your relationship status… Or maybe something completely different will happen, maybe you’ll affirm that your beloved individual is truly perfect in every way… In either event, if you are in a relationship, please don’t dread the holidays; do your best to enjoy them, try to be on your best behavior, but also try to make effective use of the unique family and personal situations this season presents to you.

If you are not in a relationship, we still encourage you to enjoy this season, and we encourage you to be thankful for the current, uncomplicated nature of your life… You have lots of time to become emotionally confident, and to become ready to participate (and quietly observe someone) in discovering whether a relationship might, or might not work.