Have You Lost That Loving Feeling in Your Marriage?

In every marriage there are moments when the feeling of love and romance seems lost to the busyness of everyday. The intense and exciting love you once strongly felt is now replaced with feelings of comfort and security. While this is important, you still desire the intense excitement of your earlier years.

The mistake some make is looking for that loving feeling in someone else rather than in their spouse. They might contact old flings trying desperately to find that intensity and excitement again. Or they believe that their marriage is beyond that point and instead settle for the mundane. But neither option needs to be the case. Instead, try these options.

Remember.  Grab an old photo album, turn on your song, eat at your favorite restaurant, or relive your first date. Do anything that reminds you of when you first met. Then remember what you first loved about your spouse and speak it to each another. This is not the time to rehash old arguments or frustrations; rather it is a time to reflect on the good times and what did work well between the two of you.

Repent.  Anytime you visit the past, there will be moments when you realize that you hurt one another. Take a few moments to acknowledge the past hurts, ask for forgiveness, and let it go. Holding onto past hurts is like erecting a wall around your heart to protect yourself from any more harm. When you ask for forgiveness and intentionally work at not repeating the same mistake, you allow your spouse to remove the wall around their heart and the love will flow more freely.

Rediscover.  You have grown in your marriage and so has your spouse. You are not the same person that first got married. Spend some time getting to know the person your spouse has become instead of the person you have decided they have become. Give grace to each other and you will discover a love that is far deeper than the intense and exciting love that you once felt.

It is never too late to turn your marriage around. By remembering, repenting and rediscovering your spouse you can turn your hearts towards one another and your bond will become stronger than when you first began.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Value of a Working Mom

Sometimes meaningful parental moments come in the middle of another conversation. It usually has nothing to do with the topic at hand and is uncharacteristically transparent.  Looking back, you wish there was a bright shining light demanding your attention so you could savor every second.

I had such a moment with my fourteen year old son just this past week.  The filter in his ADHD brain telling him not to comment on certain things is underdeveloped even for his age while his critical thinking skills far exceed.  This combination makes for very interesting and frequently frustrating conversations. Since he loves to talk, there is no shortage of either.  This week he shocked me with, “I’m glad that you are a working mom.” Suprised, I asked for further clarification because he often complains how difficult his life is. Here are his responses.

“You don’t schedule your life around me.”  Talk about a shocking statement coming from a boy who frequently complains of having no ride to the activity of the week!  He explained that his friend’s mom chooses to rearrange her schedule to meet her son’s wants and desires. As a result, his friend has a skewed view that life is all about him. My son was astonished that his friends got whatever they wanted with no regard for how it impacted the rest of the family.  By setting the standard that life is not about my son, he has learned to be less selfish.

“You work hard.”  It is both frightening and encouraging to understand that children learn more from what is done rather than what is said.  My son recounted a conversation he overheard from two mothers who were commenting on how difficult it must be to work and go to school at the same time.  Having experienced this first hand with his mother, he was shocked to discover that not every mother did this.  He then explained that by demonstrating what can be accomplished he had the motivation to work hard as well.  By setting an example of hard work (it is important to note it is the example that is significant, not the words), he has learned self motivation.

“You and Dad don’t waste time.”  By far this was the most confusing statement from my son especially since he seems to have little regard for his own time management.  He then admitted to spending quite a bit of time listening in on adult conversations and made this observation.  When time is a rare commodity, there is less gossip (his words) and more engaging discussions.  Apparently, the conversations he overhears between his parents are deeper and more meaningful because there is less time to talk.  By placing value on quality time and conversation, he has learned not to gossip.

Probably the hardest part of knowing that my son has learned these valuable lessons is understanding that he will frequently forget these lessons and become selfish, unmotivated and a gossip.  However by continuing to set standards, living by example and placing value on the important things of life, the lessons can be continually reinforced making a positive difference in his life.  As an added bonus, these lessons in turn encouraged me to keep going and greatly reduced the guilt often felt as a working mom.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Narcissistic Sexual Abuse

sexual abuseHas sex become something you just do rather than enjoy? Do you feel pressured into having sex? Is it possible to be sexually abused in a marital relationship?

Sexual abuse can happen to both men and women in and out of a marital relationship. In a relationship with a narcissist, however, that abuse becomes magnified. For the narcissist, sexual abuse is used to control your behavior, elevate their feelings of superiority, reenact their fantasies (not yours), and paralyze you. Not all narcissists use sexual abuse as a means of domination. But if you are in a relationship with one, knowing even the subtle forms of sexual abuse can be freeing.

  1. The Early Stage. A narcissist begins the abuse by grooming you. They do a mildly abusive act to see if you acquiesce. For instance, they might fondle you in front of your mother or demandsexting while you are at work. These unwanted or embarrassing sexual acts are designed to catch you off-guard and create a feeling of trepidation. It is also a subtle message to others that you belong to them. Not in a comforting way, but one that leaves you feeling like a possession. Be warned, sometimes narcissists share yoursexting photos with friends further adding humiliation. When you confront the narcissist, they minimize, deny, or blame you.
    • Verbal Assaults. In the beginning, the verbal comments are amazingly flattering. You are the person of their dreams. You meet all of their sexual needs. But as soon as you begin to disagree with a sexual preference, you are accused of being manipulative and controlling. You are openly criticized for your sexual desires or lack thereof. Then the comments turn vulgar. Sexual insults or debasing comments about your body become more common. You begin to feel not good enough, being called both a whore and a prude. Narcissists do not see partners as individuals with feelings and opinions. Rather they are pieces of meat. This is apparent in the general way they talk about the opposite sex.
    • Jealousy Rages. The narcissist demands that you tell them everything about your previous sexual partners and encounters. Then they use the information to call you a slut or use your encounters as rationalization for their own indiscretions. When you become jealous, they claim you are being irrational and domineering. Some narcissists want you to cover up in public while others want you to wear provocative clothing beyond your comfort level. No matter what the outfit, you are accused of being attracted to others, flirting, flaunting your body, and cheating. The narcissist will use these accusations as justification for further sexual abuse. “You deserve this,” or “You asked for this,” are typical narcissistic responses. They can also be jealous of children or pets, basically anything that takes your attention away from them.
    • Coercion Tactics. To persuade you into having sex, the narcissist uses harassment, guilt, shame, blame, or rage. For them, this is not sexual abuse. Yet it is; any coerced sexual act is abusive. For example, they insist on sex after an argument to prove your commitment. Or they will play the victim card and compel you to have sex so they feel safe, secure, or validated. They nag and insult you, become angry and disruptive, refusing to allow you to leave or sleep until you concede. When you do finally give in, you disconnect emotionally and hurry up just to get it over. It is not satisfying for you but for them.
    • Threatening Infidelity. The narcissist threatens infidelity if you don’t comply with their escalating sexual desires, change your appearance, or gain weight. They might dangle another female in front of you to bully you into doing sexual acts that you are uncomfortable performing. To isolate you from friends, they might openly talk or joke about being attracted to your friend. When verbal threats fail, the narcissist will be unfaithful to prove their point.
  2. The Pushy Stage. It’s never enough. No frequency or style of sex is ever enough. Just when you believe that you have reached your boundaries, the narcissist pushes you further and further. When you object, you are ridiculed for your stance and all of the tactics in the early stage are condensed into one rant until you concede. Just to prove their dominance, they use your opposition as an excuse for pushing you even more.
    • Inciting Fear. You begin submitting to unwanted sexual acts out of fear that the narcissist will hit you, leave you, humiliate you, punish you, betray you, or withhold money. To reinforce this fear, the narcissist will do these acts, blame you for “making me do it,” and then demand you have sex to prove your loyalty. The pressure to have sex is unrelenting and unforgiving regardless of your physical condition and sexual desires.
    • Selfish Appeals. A classic example of selfish sex is unprotected sex. Because intercourse is all about how the narcissist feels, they refuse to use condoms and insist you take full responsibility for birth control or STD/STI protection. It is not uncommon for a narcissist to lie about having STD/STIs, refuse to be checked, and then blame you when you contract it. Your concerns over unprotected sex are belittled and minimized. It is all about them.
    • Sexual Withdraw. Some narcissists completely withdraw all sex from the relationship. Any requests you make for sex are met with ridicule, rants about your performance, and excessive excuses for abstinence. You are to blame for their lack of desire, it is never their fault. They will also oscillate between excessive sex and complete withdraw to maintain control and manipulate you into doing whatever they ask.
    • For the narcissist, your body is theirs and their body is theirs. Therefore they feel entitled to give ultimatums about your body. You have to lose weight or exercise more or groom yourself in a certain way to keep them satisfied. You could be in the hospital sick and if the narcissist wants to have sex, you are required to meet their needs. You are forced into pregnancy or an abortion because it is what they want, not what you want. You are not allowed to breast feed your baby because they don’t like how your breasts look.
    • Destroying Principles. Prior to meeting the narcissist, you had standards of what was acceptable sexually. For instance, participating in pornography, prostitution, having multiple partners at one time, or sex with animals was completely out of the question. But now, the narcissist’s argument for bending your principles seems compelling. You begin to believe the lie that if you will submit to the act just one time, then they will be satisfied and not require more of you. So they persuade you into have sex with someone else while they watch or have you watch them having sex with someone else. They might record you having sex without your knowledge and then beg you to watch it with them. But it is not enough. If you withhold sex out of disgust over bending your principles, they become angry, belligerent and sometimes violent.
  3. The Violent Stage. Once the narcissist reaches the violent stage, sex can no longer return to an expression of mutual love or commitment. They are not able to be excited by such menial emotions or simple intimate acts. It is now about intimidation, control, domination, power, torture, and terror. Not every narcissist escalates to this level; many just remain in the pushy stage fully content. But for those who do advance, these acts are often criminal. It is the act that is criminal not the nature of your relationship. You can be married and a victim of sexual crime.
    • The FBI defines rape as “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is a good time to take a break and reflect. You might have made excuses for the narcissist’s actions in the past but rape is rape no matter what the nature of your relationship is. Take a deep breath and have a good cry before reading on.
    • Degrading Acts. Degradation is in the eye of the beholder. The narcissist would not view these acts as degrading but you might. You might even be okay with some of these acts or not. Without getting into too many specifics, here are a couple of examples: urinating on you, having sex while on the toilet, or sex in public places. Degrading acts are done to humiliate you and cause you to feel trapped in the relationship. The narcissist will say, “Who would want you but me after you have done this.”
    • Sadistic Sex. There are two forms of sadistic sexual acts: mild (also known as S&M) and severe which can lead to death. Mild examples include: master-slave role-playing, immobilizing you through drugs or alcohol, administering pain (whipping) during sex, confining you to a cage, typing you up, blindfolding you, or clamping your sexual organs. It is important to remember that any sexual act which is not consensual is considered rape. The severe examples include: physical beatings, psychological torture, burning, cutting, stabbing, vampirism, and murder before, during or after sex. A narcissistic sadist will not stop their behavior even when it is identified as such.
  4. The Exit Stage. You can choose to exit the relationship at any of the above stages, it is all sexual abuse. Understandably, some of these abusiveacts you might not want to share with others as a reason for your departure. It can cause you unnecessary embarrassment, increase your humiliation, and prolong the healing process. You are not obligated to explain to anyone why you leave. But it is likely that you will need some professional help in order to heal. Sexual abuse leaves scars that frequently are not fully seen until you are in a healthy sexual relationship.
    • Post-Relationship. Be warned, even after you have broken off the relationship with the narcissist, they do one of two extremes. Either you still belong to them (even after divorce) or they act as if you never existed. Since you are still theirs, they are entitled to continue to demand sex even if you are in a relationship with someone else. Or, they will wipe all memories or pictures of you out of their life pretending the relationship never happened. This is a narcissist phenomenon which can oscillate between the two extremes.

In the beginning, it is common for you to be in a state of shock and have intense fear about leaving. Just reading the information here may increase your anxiety or cause a panic attack. This is normal. You are coming out of the fog of abuse and it is a sign of health for you to react that way. Alternating mood swings of anger and depression are also typical as you begin to see your partner for the person they are rather than the image they have created. Just because a narcissist has an unrealistic image of themselves does not mean that you have to believe it.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Eight Mental Abuse Tactics Narcissists Use on Spouses

narcissismHave you experienced intentional exploitation by your spouse? Regularly endured insults mixed with rejection and alternating with affirmation? Feel manipulated into doing or saying something out of character? Then you might be experiencing abuse.

But is it really abuse without bruising?  Abuse is not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse by a narcissist can be difficult to spot.

It starts simply with a casual comment about anything: color of the wall, dishes in the sink, or the car needing maintenance. The remark is taken out of context by the narcissist to mean that you disapprove of them in some way. You try to explain that wasn’t your intention but they are off on a tirade which ends in you feeling like you are losing your mind.

How did this happen? Here are several favorite narcissistic mental abuse tactics:

  1. Rage – This is an intense, furious anger that comes out of nowhere, usually over nothing (remember the wire hanger scene from the movie “Mommie Dearest”). It startles and shocks you into compliance or silence.
  2. Gaslighting – They lie about the past making you doubt your memory, perception, and sanity. They claim and give evidence of your past wrong behavior further causing doubt. You might even begin to question what you said a minute ago.
  3. The Stare – This is an intense stare with no feeling behind it.  It is designed to scare you into submission and is frequently mixed with the silent treatment.
  4. Silent Treatment – They punish by ignoring you. Then “lets you off the hook” by demanding an apology even though you aren’t to blame. This to modify your behavior.  They also have a history of cutting others out of their life permanently over small things.
  5. Projection – They dump their issues onto you as if you were the one doing it. For instance, they accuse you of lying when they have lied. Or they make you feel guilty when they are really guilty. This creates confusion.
  6. Twisting – If you confront your narcissistic spouse, they will twist it around to blame you for their actions. They will not accept responsibility for their behavior and insist you apologize to them.
  7. Manipulation – A favorite manipulation tactic is for the narcissist to make you fear the worst such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection. Then they refute it and ask you for something you normally would reply with “No”. This is a control tactic to get you to agree to do something you wouldn’t.
  8. Victim Card – When all else fails, the narcissist resorts to playing the victim card. This is designed to gain your sympathy and further control your behavior.

Don’t let your narcissistic spouse get the best of you by using these tactics. Instead memorize these maneuvers, remain silent when they are being used, and end the conversation as soon as possible. This will keep you from being a victim of mental abuse.

How Exhaustion in Women Decreases Sex Drive

The Exhausted Woman's HandbookRosa’s sex drive was strong just a few short years ago, but now it had severely tapered off and threatened her marriage. In all other areas of her life, she was successful. She owned a small business, married for 15 years, and had two wonderful children. But this area eluded her. Just the thought of having sex exhausted her. Tired of initiating, her husband eventually stopped asking resulting in increased tension.

Perhaps your story is similar. So how does this happen? Is it hormonal? It could be, so get tested for this first. But once your hormones are in balance, the next area to investigate is your level of exhaustion.

There are two kinds of exhaustion. One is physical from the demands of a busy overbooked schedule. The other is psychological due to unmet needs, expectations, ambitions, and hopes. It is compounded by tragedies, disappointments, rejections, and harsh realities. And it has encompassed nearly every aspect of your life including your sex drive.

Here are four ways exhaustion negatively contributes to a decreased sex drive:

  • Over-gratifying – You try so hard to please others that the entire point of the activity is lost.  This is especially true sexually. Sex becomes a chore, something on your “To-Do” list rather than a blissful escape from your everyday demands. You focus on pleasing your mate at the expense of your own enjoyment. Eventually, sex becomes undesirable.
  • Over-protective – You withdraw or withhold intimacy because you feel the need to defend your decisions, actions, beliefs, and emotions. A lack of communication, unresolved conflict, and past hurtful words cause to you become self-protective. Instead of intimacy being a place of safety and security, you feel even more vulnerable to attack.
  • Over-thinking – Admit it, while you are having sex your mind often wanders. Before you know it, you are obsessing over a conversation, decision, or event. It is not like there is any new insight, the obsession just seems to take over. This severe distraction keeps you from enjoying sex. Any repetitive behavior can become a habit. If you have developed a habit of over-thinking during sex, no wonder you don’t find pleasure in it. Who would?
  • Over-whelmed – The latest work project just blew up, the house looks like a disaster, the kids need to be several places at once and your husband has a late meeting. You are stressed to the point of daily exhaustion and feel crushed by the weight of everyday chores, demands, and expectations. Who has the energy for sex after all of that?

There is hope for your exhaustion. It can be beat. Acknowledgment is the first step towards healing, the next is taking some new action. Try these suggestions:

  • Over-gratifying – Talk to your spouse about what you enjoy sexually. If you need more romance, create a romantic atmosphere. Take charge of meeting your sexual needs.
  • Over-protective – Be open with your spouse about past hurts and forgive. Holding onto the past hurts you far more than it hurts him.
  • Over-thinking – As soon as your mind wanders, refocus your thoughts on your spouse. In your mind, thank him for the many things he does do. Better yet, speak it out loud.
  • Over-whelmed – Have sex when you are most rested during the day. This may be first thing in the morning or after a warm bath.

Don’t let exhaustion take over. Your sex life can be better and you can find freedom from your exhaustion.

 

For more tips, read Christine Hammond’s new book, The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook. You may purchase it at Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Or just click on the picture on the right.

Join us for a webinar and a FREE copy of the book.  For more information, click http://growwithchristine.wix.com/exhaustedhandbook

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Has your Sex Drive Decreased

It happens to almost everyone.  You are not interested in having sex as frequently as before. Or the thought of having sex at all is completely unappealing.  Your sex drive seems to be decreasing and you not sure as to why.  At first, there may not be any logical explanation but looking to some underlying issues may reveal the problem.

Be honest.  This is not a time to be silent with your spouse.  They need to know that you are experiencing a decrease in your sex drive and perhaps not achieving an organism as frequently.  Most likely they have already noticed and is wondering what is wrong.  Check for any relational problems such as difficulty with in-laws, finances, communication, or the kids.  Getting help with these problems and dealing with them can improve your sex drive.

Talk to your doctor.  Sometimes there are physiological reasons for a decrease in sex drive.  Age, discomfort during sex, painful sex or change in hormonal levels can all be contributing factors.  By discussing your concerns with your doctor and running a few simple tests, the physiological reasons can be identified and in some cases resolved, improving your sex drive.

Heal from the past.  Oftentimes when you are in a stable relationship and things are going well, sexual images of your past or unresolved sexual issues surface.  Your ability to put aside these images or issues is no longer working.  However, dealing with them again is not what you want to do.  Yet, this is precisely what is needed.  A past experience of abortion, rape, molestation, sexual abuse, multiple partners, pornography, sexually transmitted disease or infection can all be contributing factors to your decreased sex drive now.  Take some time to work with a professional counselor to help heal from these past hurts.

Reduce stress.  The stress of maintaining a household, managing the competing schedules, and working to improve finances can be overwhelming.  Knowing what needs to be done and realizing that it cannot be accomplished increases your stress level.  Usually the things you choose not to complete are the very things that help you to relax and unwind.  Like proper amounts of sleep, eating right, exercising, reading a favorite book, taking a relaxing bath, going on a date with your husband, or just playing with your kids.  Add these activities back into your schedule and take time out for yourself.  Sex will be far more desirable.

Not addressing your diminished sex drive could result in an increase in marriage problems or/and increase in lack of self-confidence; neither of which is desirable.  This is a problem that will not go away with time or get better without being addressed, rather it is something you can confront and manage.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Stop Having the Same Argument Over and Over with your Spouse

Do you have the same argument with your spouse over and over?  Can you recite their response even before you begin?  Are you losing interest in even having conversations with them?  This can be the beginning of no communication cumulating in an unhappy marriage or divorce.

There is a better way.  It can change.  By listening, looking and repeating before responding, you allow them to feel heard.  This in turn allows you to more fully understand their point of view.   When you understand them, your response is different which translates to more understanding from your partner to your point of view and increased understanding before they respond.   The cycle becomes a more positive type of ongoing communication.

Listen.  When your partner is speaking, listen intently to them resisting the urge to rehearse a response.  Listen for repeated words, phrases, or emotions; this will give you a clue as to what is really important to them.  Voice inflection can also identify the real issue or at least the most passionate issue.  Ironically it is usually the last thing a person states that is the most significant, not the first.  If you are spending your time thinking about your response to the first thing they said, you will miss the major issue of the discussion.

Look.  Body language, the time of day, the location of the discussion, and the emotional reaction all provide information as to the type of feedback desired.  For instance, if your spouse confronts you with their hands on their hips, with an angry face yelling, at the end of a long day while you are walking in the door, they are not interested in positive feedback.  Instead they are more interested in getting the upper hand.  If instead your spouse sets a time and place with you in advance and greets you warmly with a pleasant smile, they are looking for a mutual agreement instead of the upper hand.  Turn around is fair play, so if you want to be treated kindly, then you should do the same.

Repeat.  Before you respond, repeat what you have learned from listening and observing, not just the words stated but the emotions as well.  Repeating what you have learned gives your spouse the chance to correct any misunderstandings before you respond.  If you respond before clarifying, then you may be responding to the wrong issue and make the situation worse.  Feeling loved is about knowing that your spouse truly listens and understands, so take the time to complete this step before moving on to the next one.

Respond.  Only after you have listened, looked and repeated what your spouse has expressed should you respond to what they are saying.  Resist the urge to cram everything you have been thinking into a short time period.  Instead, select one issue and respond to it allowing time for your spouse to respond.  Resolving one issue at a time actually saves time rather than downloading a bunch of things all at once which can be overwhelming.  Once an issue is resolved, take a break rather than moving on to the next topic, this allows both of you to absorb the conversation and reflect.

Communication is difficult but you can learn to communicate effectively.  Not everyone communicates the same way so understanding your spouse’s personality is an important element.  But if you use the listen, look, repeat, and respond method, it will go a long way to helping increase positive communication.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.