The newest episode of The Same Boat is dedicated to my dad, the 80 year old fountain of youth 💪 Thank you for staying fit and relieving me of any burden of retiring you early.
Hatty Lee rejoins me to continue our discussion about parentified children. In this episode we cover topics such as:
*The importance of intentionally creating space for ourselves to identify and express our emotions *The fear of losing our identity or role as a caregiver *Is there only one way to honor our parents? *Avoiding being a “burden” to others *Can we prevent our own kids from being parentified children? *What can family therapy look like with our parents? *Is it helpful to “retire” our parents?
“You are not equipped to give your parents the love and care they needed and did not get from their own caregivers and partner,” says Hatty J. Lee, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist.
Many of us have felt tremendous pressure to listen to our parents’ marital problems, to protect them from loneliness or worthless feelings, to give them grandchildren for their legacy. Sometimes it seems like obligation, duty, or even pity.
Where do these feelings and thoughts come from? What happens when we live as a surrogate spouse, as a surrogate savior?
Hatty and I do a deep dive into this hot topic that affects so many of us. Join the conversation!
Hatty Lee is a skilled therapist and impactful writer, practicing in Los Angeles, CA. Her practice is called Oak and Stone Therapy (www.oakandstonetherapy.com). Her Instagram posts resonate strongly with thousands. If you’d like insight and tools for connection, follow Hatty: @hattyjlee
Tiger Woods. Amber Smith. Kanye. Bill Cosby. Lindsay Lohan. Seungri. Lamar Odom. Their sex addictions have made huge headlines and/or ruined lives. Chances are, you have someone in your circle as well who has a sex addiction. Various polls have shown that roughly 25% of females in the church self-report compulsive sexual behavior, and men nearly triple that percentage. Yet, hardly anyone is talking about it. Especially during the dating stage.
This silence is problematic because if the dating couple ends up marrying, the sex addiction will reveal itself at some point during the marriage. Sex addiction does not magically go away in marriage. It is a myth that regular sex with your spouse will cure sex addiction. This then turns into crisis, a complete breach of trust, and perhaps divorce. The betrayed and traumatized spouse will cry out, “Why didn’t you tell me you had this problem when we were dating?!”
One of the most common responses to the above question is: You wouldn’t have married me if I told you. If you think about it, this answer is jacked up on so many levels. In a way, it’s one person “tricking” another person into marrying them by omission or by deceit. Tragically, hiding a significant part of one’s self is a hallmark of most addicts. The shame they feel about themselves gets so heavy that they feel compelled to lie in order to be accepted. When they are alone, however, the two-faced reality hits hard and they go back to the activity that provides relief: sexual behaviors.
Friends, I have advice for any reader who is currently dating, or interested in dating. This advice differs for the one who has the sex addiction, and the one who does not have the sex addiction.
First, for the one without the sex addiction, be courageous and ask the person you are dating if they have a porn/sex addiction. Or any addiction for that matter. Substance, gambling, eating, gaming, hoarding. If they say no, and then you discover later while dating that they were lying, you have a clear character red flag which should make you seriously reconsider staying in the relationship, let alone marrying the person.
If they say yes they do have an addiction, ask them what they are doing about it. This, too, will reveal their character. As a marriage and family therapist, I can testify that character makes or breaks marriages. It does not matter how hot they are, how much money they will potentially earn, how great their family is, how talented their musical skill, or how kindly they treat you. If their character breaches your trust, you will have a frozen, miserable marriage. I would even say the earlier you ask them about addictions the better, before you get too emotionally attached. If you are already sexually active with this person, the attachment is unfortunately even stronger.
I realize this is terrifying material for the sex addict. You may be thinking, “Roy just shut up please, just shut up.” Trust me, I am trying to help you, not hurt you. More important than my fear of making you uncomfortable, however, is my goal of breaking the wheel of sex addiction because I see what it does to families and churches. Any prevention of devastation is worth this level of discomfort. So here is my advice to those of you with the sex addiction: Start recovery NOW, not later.
Consider this scenario. You’re on date #3 with someone you’re starting to really like. This person asks you, “I know this is awkward but I have to ask you something important. I saw my church split because my pastor lied for years about his sex addiction. If he had been upfront and gotten treatment, I think it would have gone a whole lot better. Do you have a porn or sex addiction?”
You now have choices as your heart starts thumping. You can lie. Or you can tell the truth. But even if you tell the truth, will you minimize it? Most people minimize it for self protection. But those who have started true recovery have already begun the process of being authentic. So let’s say the truth is, you know you have an addiction, and you are considering getting treatment. Credit to you for being truthful. However, what confidence will your date have if you haven’t even started treatment?
Now consider this alternate scenario. It’s the same date #3 with the same person, with the same question posed to you. This time, you tell this truth: “I was compulsive in looking at porn since 4th grade, all the way up until the start of college. I also objectified people, trying to hook up with random people, and even paying for sex. I started treatment 3 years ago with a certified sex addiction therapist. I attended group therapy weekly, and still do for accountability. I haven’t looked at porn for 2.5 years, and because I know this will be my life long temptation, I have 8 structures in place so that I’ll never go back to it. I have 3 go-to people to talk to when I get tempted to fantasize, and I have never felt so free in my life.” Now, contrast how your date will feel after hearing this answer, as opposed to the previous answer.
This is character. This is knowing yourself, knowing your weakness, and confronting it instead of hiding it and lying about it to others. If the polls are correct, there are way more people with sex addiction than you think. The question is, what are they doing about it? If someone told me they were controlling it by prayer and reading Scripture, I’d say: And?
Even if you tell your date that you are 10 years sober, there is the chance that they will not want to date you anymore. I don’t shy away from that reality. That is their choice, and it will sting. Part of our character building though, is being able to accept another person’s answer. Another part of our character building is being able to accept that we may not be quite ready to date right now. We may need to work on our health so that we become safe to others.
If you are convicted that this dating advice is what you (and God) would want, here are some ways to start:
Make an appointment with your local CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist). They specialize in getting you on the road to recovery. You can go to www.sexhelp.com and use the search filters to find one in your area.
If your CSAT does not offer group therapy, find a group to attend via www.sa.org. These meetings are free. Though they are not moderated by a therapist, the community aspect is essential for any sex addict’s recovery. Isolating is one of the worst things a sex addict can do.
Listen to podcasts that focus on sex addiction. Some of my favorites are “Sexual Addiction:Strength/Hope/Recovery” hosted by Carol the Coach, and “Pure Desire Podcast.” I also host a podcast called “SA speakeasy” that centers on the topic of sex addiction.
I would not be hitting hard with this advice if I didn’t have strong personal conviction. As a recovering addict myself, I know how terrifying it is to reveal my true nature to others. But the blood of Christ has paid for our shame. We can now focus on working hard towards sobriety. If His gospel does not reach the level of dealing with our shame, and we are still living a double life, then what really has He set us free from? It is liberating to know Christ is my strongest advocate in my own sobriety, and in yours as well.
Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse, wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. This post is an adaptation of her observations, with a bonus idea for Christians. Here are 6 ways to avoid regrets on your deathbed:
Work towards YOUR dreams, not the dreams placed on you by your parents.
When you die, will you kick yourself for doing the career you hated, or marrying the person who wasn’t your type, all because it was your parents’ wishes?
Choose quality time over overtime.
Even if your longer work hours produced a larger home or fancier vacations, will your family thank God you were absent more often than not?
Let people know the true you, starting with your true emotions and opinions.
We all wear masks in life, whether it’s to keep up an image or to protect from pain. On a deathbed, however, people who have lived masked lives die incredibly lonely and misunderstood.
Deepen bonds with friends, and if you don’t have friends, make some.
How meaningful and fulfilling it will be when you look around you and see your ride or die friends. These types of friendships don’t form passively. We carve out time and energy to make lasting friendships.
Remove obstacles to joy.
Talk to a therapist to discover what these obstacles might be. If it’s years of resentment, learn steps to forgive. If it’s overwhelmingness, learn to say goodbye to lesser priorities. If it’s chemical imbalance, find a trusted psychiatrist. Life is way too short to live with a negative lens.
Be assured of your salvation.
Do you know where you’re going after you die? Seek answers with your pastor or a spiritual mentor you trust. Assurance of salvation will not only give you great peace when you die, but for each living day as well!
I published a new episode of The Same Boat! In Episode 19, I interview Cheryl Kang Prout and Vivianne Kelly of Cordial Family Lawyers, LLP, who provide an intimate glimpse into the world of divorce mediation. Some of the questions we discuss:
Are all family lawyers the same?
How does divorce affect kids?
How is your conscience affected as a family law attorney?
Is there a way to make divorce less painful or harmful?
How can mediators be ministers?
I was blown away by how much I learned from my guests, and I hope you will be illuminated as well. Please share this episode with anyone you know who is considering divorce. And as always, I truly appreciate your reviews on whichever platform you listen to this podcast!
As many of you know, I enjoy pre-engagement counseling quite a bit. If you’re not familiar with the term pre-engagement counseling (I’ll just refer to it as PEC for short), you can read more about it here. I enjoy PEC because we get to talk about topics that married people wish they would have talked over before marrying. So I’m going to start a series of short articles that highlight the key things to ask before popping the question.
I hope these will be of value to you, whether you are dating, or you’re a pastor conducting pre-marital counseling, or even if you are married and want to have more clarity about a topic.
It’s the beginning of Fall, which means the start of my church’s small group is right around the corner. Thinking about my small group brings a variety of wonderful emotions up to the surface: laughter, support, challenge, and most of all, safety. Why do I emphasize safety? Because my small group’s safety stands in stark contrast to the worst small group experience of my life, circa 2013. So what happened?
“No, no, no ….” I groaned, as I watched a Korean drama on TV the other night. A man in his early 30’s with a modernized bowl-cut rubbed his palms together, begging his mother to let him date the love of his life. His love was a lady in her mid 20’s. Pretty, kind, intelligent, and predictably, from a poor family. The man’s mother not only refused her son’s request, but also threatened to inflict damage upon the woman’s family if her son did not break up. Continue reading A Better Way to Honor Your Father and Mother→
“What makes you think your father was never proud of you?” I asked a millennial man in my counseling office years ago. He was leaning over, rubbing his temples with his palms. When he finally looked up at me, eyes glistening with tears, he gave a simple answer: “Because he never told me so.” Continue reading 3 Ways to Develop Your Child’s Self-Esteem→
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