If we want to experience genuine connection in relationship we have to begin doing things differently. We have to change our needs, behaviors, core beliefs, and expectations in relationship. We have to change our thinking. It can’t be about us. We can’t seek to have relationship on our terms. We have to evaluate not only where we have failed in relationship, but why we have failed in relationship.
I love being in love. The delicate mix of fear and exhilaration when my eyes lock with a handsome stranger across the room. The warmth and anticipation of a first touch. The nervous excitement that flows through my body during the first kiss. It’s insatiable. I crave it!
I’ve been this way since grade school. I could always find the perfect boy on the playground to give me special attention. I developed my knack for flirting in junior high, which started out as more of a game but resulted in the physical affection from many guys that only left me wanting more. During high school, I perfected my “love” skill, seeking out the most popular guys to tease and please, to make them fall in love with me. By college, I was a pro: engaging in multiple love interests at the same time, never having any relationship last too long.
I wasn’t really looking for a husband. When my friends asked about my dating intent, I simply replied, “Any guy that can fill my veins with ‘love juice’ longer than two months can have me.” I knew that my attitude was a bit cavalier, but it was what I wanted. I didn’t want a relationship, I wanted to be in love. I wanted to feel in love.
Developing genuine connection with others takes time and intention. It’s not going to happen over night. It will take a deeper understanding of ourselves and others to cultivate successful relationships. While it may be difficult to imagine what this process could look like, a perfect place to start is found in John 13:34.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Loving others can be tricky. How do we balance a godly version of loving others without it turning into a codependent, compulsive, or addictive behavior? How do we create a proactive approach to genuine connection?
While our past experiences contribute to how we relate to others, we have to work at cultivating relationship in a way that continues to move us toward health. This can feel even more challenging with our technology-saturated society and social media use. While many of us think that social media gives us an even greater opportunity to connect, we have to be careful that it does not give us a false sense of connection.
Keep in mind that the Internet and social media are not inherently bad. As with every area of our life, it’s all about balance. The Internet and social media use are not any different. They require the same level of understanding and responsibility we give any other area that has the potential to pull us back into unhealthy behaviors. Keep in mind, many of us who struggle with sexually compulsive and addictive behaviors struggle with addictive tendencies in other areas too. We have to be aware of any behavior that has the potential to facilitate our compulsive needs.
Too often, we unknowingly assign meaning to a thought, feeling, or behavior that then dictates our future behaviors. In the moment, we don’t recognize the control it has in our lives—how quickly we can become compulsive or even addicted to it.
I could feel the blood rushing to my head; my heart was pounding; and I was short of breath. I started panting and walking around in circles. I knew I was having a panic attack. I’ve had them before but never over something like this. I started looking under the couch, in the couch cushions, behind the chair, and in all the drawers. I knew it had to be around here somewhere. I couldn’t find it anywhere!
Then I remembered I could use my laptop to locate it. I grabbed my laptop and within a few moments heard the familiar “ding-ding” in the other room. I followed the sound and finally, my phone was back in my hand. I breathed a sigh of relief and plopped down on the couch.
Immediately, I unlocked my phone and opened Facebook. I scrolled and scrolled, liked a few photos, and then opened Instagram. I scrolled for longer on Instagram and followed a few new people. After what seemed like no time (actually 45 minutes), I heard my son awake in the next room, so I grabbed my phone and went to get him.
He looked so cute as he waited for me! I left him in the crib and snapped about 20 pictures, then flipped through them to pick the best one. I heard him start to fuss, but I really wanted to post his cute photo. I picked a filter, wrote a short post, added a couple hashtags, and posted it. I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to see what people say about my cute boy.” I picked up my screaming son and went to the other room.
As I watched him play with his toys, it wasn’t long before my phone chimed with likes and comments. I felt so happy! Just then my son was trying to stack blocks, so I turned the phone around and took a quick selfie with him in the background. I posted the selfie with the words, “Another fabulous day doing the amazing stayat-home mom job.”
I waited and waited. Only a couple people liked it. I wondered, “Why aren’t people commenting on my post? It’s probably because I’m in the picture. People like photos of babies so much more. People are so irritating!” Feeling frustrated, I walked to the kitchen—ignoring the six feet of dirty dishes on the counter and a sink filled to the brim with an awful smell—and went straight to the pantry. I grabbed a bag of chips, went back to the couch, and started eating.
As I reached the bottom of the bag, I noticed my baby boy crawling for the first time! I grabbed my phone again and went to video this momentous event. I couldn’t believe I captured it on video! I was so excited to post it. He was young to be crawling and I wanted the world to know.
I started the post, but before I could finish it, my phone died. I was so irritated. I hate not posting stuff in real time. I plugged my phone into charge, but it had to do an update, so I wouldn’t be able to use it for 30 minutes. What will I do while waiting?
I felt so disconnected and out of touch with my friends not being able to use my phone. At least I could see it! I would hate to go into another panic attack from losing the use of my phone.
Too often, our unhealthy behaviors are attached to an unhealthy belief. Our beliefs about life and ourselves are formed early in our childhood. Since our prefrontal cortex was not fully developed, we processed our world through a limbic filter—a highly emotional filter where lies were created, lies the enemy uses against us to keep us in isolation. But there is hope.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1
As a child, we thought like a child; but now we have to learn to put our childish thinking behind us. We have a choice to either believe the warped view of life and ourselves or believe what God says about us. To break free from our unhealthy beliefs we first have to identify the lie that is holding us hostage.
• “People will only love me if I do what they say.”
• “There is something wrong with me.”
• “If I’m vulnerable, I’ll get hurt.”
• “My life on social media defines me.”
• “Men only want one thing.”
• “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.”
• “I can’t be friends with pretty women.”
• “I only have value if I’m needed, especially sexually.”
• “I can’t trust anyone.”
• “My value is based on my appearance.”
• “If I get pregnant, he’ll marry me.”
• “Flirting is harmless and doesn’t hurt anyone.”
• “I’m responsible for the feelings and happiness of others.”
• “I’ve always had more guy friends than girl friends.”
• “I can keep the relationship if I have sex with the guy.”
• “If I only date unavailable men, I’ll be the one in control and won’t get hurt.”
• “God won’t be there when I really need Him.”
• “I can’t change ___________________________.”
We become trapped in a vicious cycle of distorted thinking and negative feelings.
Our distorted thinking comes from an unhealthy belief. If we are going to change our
unhealthy beliefs, we have to identify where these lies come from. We have to investigate
when these thoughts were first planted in our brain.
Use the following questions to help identify how you developed an unhealthy belief.
Choose one unhealthy belief that contributes to an area of distorted thinking. Use that
same unhealthy belief throughout this entire exercise.91
The first time I remember thinking (unhealthy belief) ______________________________________
Family members: ___________________________________________________________________________
91 Riggenbach, J. (2013). The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians. Eau Claire, WI: PESI
Publishing & Media.
Other significant people: ___________________________________________________________________
Elementary school years: ____________________________________________________________________
Junior high years: ___________________________________________________________________________
High school years: ___________________________________________________________________________
College/young adult years: __________________________________________________________________
Adult years: _________________________________________________________________________________
Other significant experiences: ______________________________________________________________
When we work to identify the source of our unhealthy beliefs, it raises awareness. We can then begin to develop strategies that will help us combat our negative thought patterns and create new, positive beliefs that draw us into relationship with God and others.
Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting.