Friday, February 14, 2014

The Devil Made Me Do It

The phrase, "The Devil made me do it," became popular back in the 1970s. No doubt the concept, if not the words, have been with us for our entire history. Indeed, the earliest recorded instance of the phrase comes from Genesis 3:

And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. (Gen 3:13 KJV)

When all else fails, blame the Devil. This is known as blameshifting. In that chapter, when God addresses Adam about his actions, he blames God and the woman:

And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (Gen 3:12 KJV)

Then the woman blames the serpent. None of them take responsibility for their actions. Men and women have been committing this same sin ever since.

It is part of our fallen nature to avoid the shame and guilt of committing a wrong.

Most of us will attempt to justify it in some manner. The easiest way is to point the finger at someone else. "If he didn't berate me so often, I wouldn't have hit him." In other words, the devil made me do it.

Blameshifting happens in three ways when dealing in the aftermath of discovering an affair.


This occurs when the unfaithful spouse shifts the blame for their affair onto the hurt spouse. This is a typical response to any abuser-victim scenario. With infidelity, the action or lack of action can be varied. Whether lack of respect, lack of being made to feel important, lack of sex, or passive-aggressive behavior, the unfaithful spouse will often attempt to point to a deficiency, real or perceived, in the hurt spouse as to why he ended up in the arms of another woman.

I dealt with that specific topic more in depth in my article, "The Blame Game." Good to read it, but I'll summarize it here. Problems in a marriage, and every marriage has some, are rarely the fault of just one spouse. Both usually share in the blame to one degree or another.

The decision to have an affair, while it might be in response to a deficiency, is still fully the unfaithful spouse's responsibility.

The hurt spouse might have increased the temptation in some cases, but just like Adam and Eve didn't get off the hook for taking and eating the fruit they knew they shouldn't, neither does the unfaithful spouse.

Some unfaithful spouses may feel they never made a decision to have an affair. My wife would be one of those. She never intended to have an affair. By the time she realized that's what she was doing, she didn't have the will power to extract herself from the desires raging within her. Yet, she still made a decision.

The first time her initial affair partner flirted with her via text, she told me about it. She said it was just a fun game and nothing more. I told her no, it was not a game. Maybe to you, but to him, he's getting the signal that you're available. If you are, that's cheating. If you're not, that is mean and stringing him along. I specifically said it is inappropriate for a married woman to be flirting with another man. She confessed it to our priest and he told her the same, that she should end all contact with him.

At that point, she had a choice. She would either respect that boundary and not cheat, or she would violate it and choose to cheat. She elected to continue the flirting. She made this decision before the addictive pull of desires kicked in. In so doing, she had initiated an emotional affair with that man. It wasn't too long before he started sex-texting, sending a dopamine rush in her, and she was sucked into the current, still believing it was just a fun game, that she wasn't cheating nor would she ever cheat, believing she could handle it. But the affair was underway.

She made a conscious decision to cheat even after having been warned by me and our priest.

Sometimes it is true that a spouse will think to themselves, "I'm not happy in my marriage because of X, Y, and Z. I'm tired of dealing with it. I'll go find someone else who will treat me right." While that may be a valid consideration in certain circumstances, there is a valid route to that and a destructive route. The valid route is after discussions, reading books, going to marriage counseling, you give up, then if it is a deal-breaker, you prepare and file for divorce. Either that or you accept that this is the way it is going to be as long as you're married to him, and put up with it.

If you have sexual intercourse with the affair partner, you are physically divorcing your spouse.

Most emotional affairs also involves emotionally and spiritually divorcing your spouse. The only thing saying you are married is outwardly you live like you are and a legal piece of paper says you are. Cheating undercuts your marital relationship. The deception is damaging to the unfaithful spouse, the affair partner, the hurt spouse, the family, even if they never find out. You hurt everyone much less by not pretending your still married to him when in reality you are not.

But many unfaithful spouses are like my wife. They cross boundaries, believing it is innocent fun. Sometimes these can be fueled subconsciously by feeling a lack in the marriage, but almost always boils down to something making a low self-esteem higher knowing someone desires you, treats you important. Comes across as wanting the unfaithful spouse. But they aren't looking for an affair. They often don't believe it will happen, even when it is happening at the time. Once raging desires take over, they feel out of control, as if they are being carried through the rapids and the only solution is to ride it out and hope for the best.

For these unfaithful spouses, they tend to look back, after it hits them that they are cheating, and viewing the marriage through affair-fog eyes, then point to areas in the marriage that justify their path, causing them to feel like the victim. Yet is is obvious this is an attempt to justify actions they know are wrong after the fact. They demonstrate the need to blame anyone but themselves.

The more prideful (narcisistic) a person is, the more likely they are to blameshift. The more humble a person is, the more likely they are to not get involved in an affair in the first place, but if they did, they'd confess and take full responsibility for it.


A second type of blame is when the unfaithful spouse blames the affair on circumstances that caused them to lower their guard, become overwhelmed, or any other number of reasons. A common example is a spouse going to a bar, getting drunk, then due to lowered inhibitions and slowed thinking, end up cheating.

Another popular one is blaming the affair partner. They'll attribute it to the seduction of the affair partner, or getting him drunk and snapping a picture of the unfaithful spouse in a compromising situation, using it to blackmailing the unfaithful spouse into a real affair, etc.

However, like victim-blaming, events only increase our temptation. The unfaithful spouse is still responsible for their actions. Boundaries were still chosen to be crossed. If a person knows they do stupid things while drunk, guess what? Getting drunk is not an option. It is a boundary you don't cross. If that is hard, move the uncrossable boundary further back. Refuse to go to a bar with friends. Avoid parties where drinking occurs. Crossing those boundaries means you accept responsibility for your actions, no matter the degree of temptation you have.

One common reaction of a hurt spouse, in order to make some sense of their spouse's infidelity, is to assist in event-blaming. If the hurt spouse wishes to rebuild, a third-party to cast the blame on gives the hurt spouse a target to take their anger out on, instead of the unfaithful spouse. The affair partner is an easy target in most cases. Easier to blame and hate since you don't plan on living with them or reconciling with them.

However, this can be a problem. Mainly because an affair takes two people. Both are fully responsible for initiating it and continuing it. The affair would end if either of them said, "no" and followed that up with actions reflecting that decision.

The percentage of blame is not divided between the two, but both the unfaithful spouse and the affair partner are each 100% to blame.

The only time this may not be true is when the unfaithful spouse lies to the affair partner about their marital status. The affair partner isn't to blame for the affair other than general immorality in that case.

The main reason that event-blaming should be avoided is because it avoids dealing with the real cause of the affair:  the unfaithful spouses inability to face their sin, repent of it, and take proactive steps to heal so that the cycle doesn't repeat. So that you go and sin no more. Victim-blaming and event-blaming are methods of hiding from the real problems that are more difficult to face, and require real change to address.

If the hurt spouse assists the unfaithful spouse in event-blaming, whether on the affair partner or some extenuating circumstance, they are simply asking for another round of cheating. You'd be more forthright to say, "Awe, that's okay honey. You go ahead and cheat as much as you want. I don't mind."


The third type of blaming is when a hurt spouse blames themselves. Sometimes this is a result of an effective victim-blaming by the unfaithful spouse that the hurt spouse accepts as true. Most often it is the natural reaction of a hurt spouse upon discovering an affair to assume the unfaithful spouse is doing this because of some deficiency in them.

The night I first found out my wife was having an affair, some of my first thoughts was how could she be cheating? I thought she was happy with our marriage. I took the fact she wanted sex frequently to be a sign she wasn't straying. Why would she need more? But my first thought is that she no longer loved me. Or that she'd been hiding the fact that she wasn't satisfied with our relationship.

The hurt spouse will tend to see the affair as a rejection of them. To a large degree, it is, even if the unfaithful spouse doesn't feel that way. The actions mean more than words. Someone who loves you wouldn't hurt you like that. It's the equivalent of preparing to punish your child for misconduct, so you stab their shoulder with a knife. Saying, "I love you" to the child is meaningless.

If you have a strong self-esteem, as I describe in my articles here and here, those will be temporary thoughts. If you have weak self-esteem, however, it is easy to allow those doubts to fester into full blame-fests. Especially if the unfaithful spouse is supporting it with victim-blaming.

This is a big problem for several reasons. One, it isn't true. Rarely is it the case that a hurt spouse is responsible for decisions made without their knowledge or consent. As we've explained above, you may be responsible for marital problems, but you cannot be held responsible for the affair of your spouse unless you were holding a gun to their head, forcing them to cheat.

Two, tt also falls into the problem above: causing the unfaithful spouse to avoid dealing with why they allowed the affair to happen and fixing that. As long as they can point to someone or something else to blame, they can avoid the unpleasant task of healing themselves and therefore, your trust in them.

Three, the biggest problem that self-blame feeds is enabling. Focusing the blame on yourself ends up enabling the unfaithful spouse to continue in their infidelity. After all, if it is your fault and not theirs, they can't help it if they are continuing to be attracted to the affair partner. Not until you get your act together.

The reason this is such a temptation for hurt spouses is control.

When you discover the affair, you feel out of control. Your whole world has been turned upside down. Chaos reigns. The wrong was committed behind your back. How do you regain control?

You know you can't control the unfaithful spouse, but you can control you. If you can place the blame for the affair on yourself, then you feel you have control over fixing it. You can stop it. Accepting that the unfaithful spouse is to blame is to give up control. To feel insecure. To feel helpless.

Because self-blame is a misdiagnosis, the hurt spouse is treating a disease that doesn't exist while ignoring the one that does. While it may be scarier to trust your unfaithful spouse again with the healing process and the rebuilding, that is the only way to actually fix the relationship.

Love requires taking that risk. Because the truth is in 99.9% of the cases, them having an affair has little to do with you, and all to do with what is going on in them. If they don't deal with that, you can bet they'll do it again. By focusing on your issues as the blame for the affair, you enable them to continue the affair lifestyle because they won't change.

In each of the three types of blameshifting, the common problem is it becomes a way for the unfaithful spouse to ignore the real cause of the affair--themselves--by pointing the finger to influences exterior to them. By so doing they hide from addressing their issues, refuse to accept responsibility, fail to repent, give themselves victim status that really belongs to the hurt spouse, thus ensuring that any rebuilding efforts will fail and more rounds of cheating are in store for the marriage.

Don't allow blameshifting in any of its forms. The relationship will not heal if the real causes of the affair are not addressed.

No, the Devil didn't make you do it.

How have you dealt with these forms of blameshifting?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sex After Discovery Day

One of the more common questions that pops up from time to time is whether and when the hurt spouse should resume sexual relations with their unfaithful spouse once the affair(s) has/have come to light? This is not an easy question to answer simply because of all the dynamics that can exist in a relationship. But I'm going to make the attempt to provide some principles, that while not covering every situation, hopefully most reading this will be able to adapt to their own situations.

What is Sex?

Before we dig into that, it is important to know where I'm coming from when I talk about sex. Sex is a broad term, and can refer to various sexual activity. But I'm using it in the narrower context of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman (required for sexual intercourse that has the potential to create life). So I'm not talking about other sexual activities like oral sex or anal sex in this article, though those participating in those activities would have some of the same issues and concerns. Thus much of this will apply to participating in any sexual activity with one's spouse or partner.

When a couple have sex, they are in effect uniting to each other in marriage or renewing their marital bond.

"What?" I can hear some people crying out. "I thought it was the state and/or church that married people so they could have sex." If you don't understand the above statement, are surprised by it, or think you disagree with it, you first need to read my articles on this topic: What Is Marriage - Biological Basis, What Is Marriage - Biblical Basis, and What Is Marriage - Cultural Basis. It is important that you understand this concept to grasp the significance of the principles I'm about to give you. To have sex with someone you don't intend to marry emotionally, socially, legally, or spiritually is to abuse the union that act creates. This is also why affairs are so destructive to a marriage, because it essentially divorces your spouse and marries another physically.

If after reading the above articles you still disagree with that concept, take that into consideration where I'm coming from as we go through these points, and adjust for you own understanding.

The Hurt Spouse's Considerations

Upon discovering one's spouse has been unfaithful, there are several issues the hurt spouse is dealing with that relate to whether and when they can resume a sexual relationship with their spouse. At the root of these issues are the following.

Betrayal: An intimate trust has been violated. The unfaithful spouse took what was not theirs to take and gave it to another without the hurt spouse's knowledge or consent.

Lies and secrets: The unfaithful spouse has lied to hide their guilt and shame for what they've done to the marriage, their spouse, and their family.

Due to those, trust has been destroyed and the unfaithful spouse's love for him put into question. While the unfaithful spouse may have convinced themselves they could love two or more people, the hurt spouse will not see it that way. From their viewpoint, people who love you don't hurt you by secretly loving another.

The unfaithful spouse's claims to the contrary will fall on deaf ears of the hurt spouse due to actions speaking louder than words. They are not able to trust anything the unfaithful spouse says. Promises and claims of undying love for the spouse will sound hallow in the hurt spouse's ears for months or years to come, depending on how fast the healing takes place.

All of those realities factor into the following issues the hurt spouse tends to deal with.

Has he stopped?

It is near impossible for the hurt spouse to know for sure, that the unfaithful spouse is no longer having sex with other people or continuing an affair. Especially in the early days, but even long after that if trust isn't healing, often due to trickle truth (new revelations about the affair that the unfaithful spouse didn't mention) or reluctance of the unfaithful spouse to talk about the affair at all.

Most unfaithful spouses are not going to be gun-ho on having sex with their spouse if they still suspect the affair is still going on. In my explanation of marriage and sex above, doing so means committing adultery since the unfaithful spouse has united to the affair partner. So aside from the "ewe" aspect of their private space having been violated by another, is the desire to have sex mean more than having a good time, but that it is a commitment to each other. After discovering an affair, that commitment has been destroyed. The hurt spouse will not be ready to commit himself to his spouse in sex until they feel confident that the unfaithful spouse won't do the same again.


Once the hurt spouse discovers the affair, one of the first concerns they will have is whether they've been exposed to any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It his highly recommended that both spouses get tested for STDs. Some of them are life threatening. Until the hurt spouse knows the unfaithful spouse is safe, and is not still playing Russian Roulette with their health by a continuing affair, it will be difficult for the hurt spouse to feel safe having sex again.

Remember, if the unfaithful spouse says, "But honey, we used protection," that will not help. One, the hurt spouse has no way to verify that and they can't believe anything you say about this. Two, even if you did, protection is not 100%. Condoms break or slip off. It only takes one drop of fluids to transmit a disease.


When an affair involves sex with the affair partner, many hurt spouses have trouble getting thoughts of their spouse and the affair partner out of their mind. Sexual activity of any kind can trigger those thought and shut down desire when visualizing the unfaithful spouse and the affair partner engaged in the same activity.

Related to that, any attempts to do any special sexual and exciting actions can trigger thoughts of "I'll bet he did this with her!" Especially if they had never been done until that point. These kinds of thoughts will tend to destroy motivation for sex.

This is an issue the hurt spouse must get through, and no one has the same time table on it. Unfaithful spouses should not be surprised to discover that their hurt spouses stop in the middle of preparing for sex, because they simply can't get these images out of their minds.

Loss of love

Dr. Willard F. Harley, in his book, His Needs, Her Needs, discussed the analogy of the love bank as it relates to romance, or feeling in love with your spouse. The idea is that through a relationship, people make desposits and withdraws from their spouse or future spouse's point of view. Deposits are actions and words that make the spouse feel loved, and that varies from person to person. Withdraws are actions and words that make the spouse feel not wanted, not important, or even hated. The higher the balance, the more in love a person will feel. If it dips into the negative, however, the relationship is in danger.

There is no question that the affair is a huge withdrawal on the love bank. Some spouses can take the hit and still feel love for their spouse because their love balance was high enough to compensate. For those with a low balance, however, the withdrawal could very easily put the account into the negative. It will take a lot of the unfaithful spouse doing and saying the things that make the hurt spouse feel loved before the negative balance can be restored into the positive.

When I say it will take a lot, I mean it will take more than it normally would have before the affair. Why? Because the hurt spouse doesn't trust the unfaithful spouse. Initially, the unfaithful spouse doing things to make the hurt spouse feel loved is going to feel, in many cases, fake and temporary. It will look like attempts to calm the storm so things can "get back to normal," in hopes he'll get over it. So those don't tend to deposit much at first. But if the unfaithful spouse sticks with it, over time it will accelerate.

But as long as the hurt spouse doesn't feel very loved by the unfaithful spouse, they are not going to be too eager to express a love they don't have by having sex. If they do, they tend to feel used and numb.

In essence, the hurt spouse may love the unfaithful spouse, but at that moment he's not in love with the unfaithful spouse.

Resistance from the unfaithful spouse.

The unfaithful spouse may also be unresponsive to having sex. Many hurt spouses take this behavior as proof they don't love them anymore, or that they are still engaged with the affair partner. In some cases, that evaluation would be correct.

But there are other reasons an unfaithful spouse may not be active in wanting sex. He may feel guilty, and is reluctant to initiate sex, or feel uncomfortable because it reminds him of what he threw away. He may feel such shame over it, he sexually shuts down. If the hurt spouse is having a hard time dealing with triggers, the unfaithful spouse can interpret that as punishing him, so he distances himself from the hurt spouse.

Not feeling the "I want you" from the unfaithful spouse, the hurt spouse may have a hard time generating any desire themselves.

The above is not an exhaustive list, but reflects the primary difficulties a hurt spouse tends to encounter when considering the resumption of sexual relations after discovery day. This, however, will not account for past history of the couple which can also play into this dynamic.

Hysterical Bonding

Hysterical bonding is what many rebuilding couples experience in the weeks and months after discovery day. Initially, after the affair is discovered, if the hurt spouse has some sense that the affair is over, and he is reconnecting to his unfaithful spouse, a period of sexual desire can ensue much like the first days when he started having sex with her.

The motivation stems from the fear of losing each other and the desire to regain what he almost lost. It can also arise due to the hurt spouse's fear that if they don't have sex frequently, the unfaithful spouse may be too tempted to return to the affair partner.

This period typically last for several weeks, even months after discovery day. However, everyone is different. Some may experience little to no such desires, for others it can last more than a year. A lot of factors go into it, including the intensity of the barriers a hurt spouse experiences.

While the period of hysterical bonding may override the above listed concerns, if they are not resolved, they are waiting on the downside of the sex craze. The period is temporary and doesn't mean the above listed issues don't need to be addressed.

Principles to Guide the Hurt Spouse

So how does a hurt spouse go about deciding if and when to resume sex, and how?

The first and primary answer to that is much of it depends on the hurt spouse's comfort level. The following principles may help you to determine that.

You believe the affair is over.

It is difficult to know for sure it is over, but if the signals tell you it isn't, and your gut warns you it isn't, then it would be appropriate to wait. You don't want to enable his behavior by allowing him to have sex from both of you, to put your health at risk from STDs, and send him the signal that you're okay with it all, that you are over it when you are not.

Fact is, you won't feel safe resuming sex until you feel certain the affair has ended.

You are willing to risk "trust on loan."

Let's face it. You don't trust your spouse, and it will take months, maybe at least a couple years before you can regain a working level of trust. That is, you have enough trust in your spouse to have a healthy relationship.

If you don't let your spouse have sex with you until you've regained that trust, that will be a long time for him to wait. The truth is, few couples ever wait until trust has been restored before sex resumes. So they end up sending the unfaithful spouse the message, "Oh, okay. I'm over it now."

Practically speaking, you end up extending trust anyway. You can't keep tabs on your spouse 24/7 short of locking her in her room, which will get you a few years in your own prison cell. If your spouse wants to cheat, they will find a way to do it.

On my own discovery day, I came up with this concept after my wife asked if we could have sex that day. At first, I wasn't sure I could. She had said she'd stop seeing the affair partner or having any kind of contact with him. But those were just words and intentions. They were tested in the coming week.

I knew I didn't have the trust to give her outright, indicating everything was all right. It was far from all right. But I had the following knowledge that helped me. One, I knew everything she'd done, so I knew there were no more gotcha surprises. Two, she confessed to everything. She didn't know I knew everything, but once I confronted her, she spilled all the beans. So I had a sense she was now being honest with me.

So I told her I was going to give her trust on loan. It didn't mean I trusted her, rather I was willing to take the risk she might default in paying it back to give her breathing room to set things right. She would pay off that trust loan by continuing to be honest with me, hide no secrets, maintain no contact with the affair partner, to institute full transparency. As she did all that consistently over time, she would pay it back.

If, however, she defaulted on that trust loan by doing the opposite of those things, then she'd be stuck in a pay as you go trust rebuilding. In which case, sex would stop happening. Doing it this way, however communicated the message "I don't trust you yet, but I want to." It shows you are committed to rebuilding, but you are not giving the unfaithful spouse a free, blank check either. They are still responsible to address the issues that bought the affair about.

That said, if you determine they are still in contact with their affair partner or keeping secrets and not being transparent, I would not recommend giving them trust on loan. You need at least some semblance that they are on the path to paying that trust loan back. Otherwise your no better off than a bank loaning money for a house to someone on the unemployment line. They've got to at least show they have the potential to pay that loan off before they get it.

Sex as a commitment.

The other message I gave to my wife that day is the need for her to understand what having sex with me again meant. Before that day, her last sexual encounter was with her affair partner. In effect, at that point she was physically divorced from me and married to him.

For me to have sex with her was in effect to remarry her. To take her back from the affair partner. But I wasn't interested in playing back and forth. I wanted her to realize that to have sex with me again meant she was committing herself to me exclusively. That going to have sex with someone else was a deal breaker. That by having sex, I expected us to be exclusive with each other.

She agreed. So we were remarried that evening. Thankfully she kept her end of the commitment up to this day. She's repaid the trust loan. I've had a working trust for well over a year, probably close to around a year and a half.

I didn't know then whether she would keep up her end of the deal. I took a risk, and I won so far. But the possibility for default, for failing, is always a possibility.

But the above strategy did two things for me. It ensured that I put the burden of addressing the affair issues on her shoulders. She needed to take responsibility for the bad choices she'd made, and work to address the issues which allowed her to chose a destructive path. It also communicated the reality that while I was giving her a second chance, she was still making a commitment right then to be my wife, and no one else's. If that was broken again, it would be over.

The Risk of Love

The reality is that loving someone is always a risk. The more intimate the love, the greater the risk, the more we can be hurt. Too many couples, unwilling to risk much in love, stick to a superficial, selfish, pleasure-seeking based love. They view sex not as a commitment and life-long union with a person they love deeply, but as one among many recreational activities they like to participate in.

Whether a hurt spouse rebuilds with their unfaithful spouse or divorces and seeks another, it will be a risk of getting hurt again. The difference is in the hurt spouse's perceived level of risk from any one person. If the risk becomes too high of getting hurt again, the hurt spouse will not feel safe loving the unfaithful spouse again. They will go look for a lower-risk relationship to be a part of.

The above is a way the hurt spouse can approach resuming sexual relations. But it is primarily up to the unfaithful spouse to reestablish a safe zone for the hurt spouse, and do the things that rebuild trust over the next months and years. To aid in that, our recommendation for unfaithful spouses is to get a copy of How to Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair by Linda MacDonald, and do what it says.

As stated at the beginning, there are many factors beyond what we've listed here that go into a decision of when to resume sex with an unfaithful spouse. It is my hope this will give the hurt spouse some ground work on how to reach that decision in their situation.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Managing the Passions

An old Cherokee legend illustrates for us the basic concept of how to manage one's passions.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

In the first article, Fire of Passion, we examined what the passion are. In the second, The Passions in Christianity, we examined the Christian understanding of the passions, their origin and the main key to being able to manage them. If you've come to this article without having read those two, I highly recommend you do before proceeding on here.

Now we want to examine the various ways we can starve the bad passions and feed the good ones so we can effectively manage them.

How Do We Tell a Good Passion from a Bad One?

The easy answer is anytime a passion damages yourself and/or others, it is a passion you don't want to be enslaved to, but control. The longer answer is it can get a bit complicated at times.

There are two categories of bad passions. One is the inherently bad passion. Some passions are going to be destructive to you 99%+ of the times they are indulged. Many drugs fall into this category. The first time some use a drug like cocaine, they are immediately hooked. It would be a rare case indeed when even trying it once didn't end up causing a lot of pain for the addict and those around him.

The other is abused passions. Some passions are inherently positive and good. Hunger is an obvious one. If we don't eat, eventually we'll die. Hunger insures we don't go too long with needed food. It is a good passion that does help us to survive. But each good passion can be overdone, abused, to the point it becomes destructive rather than positive. Someone who overeats can cause diverse health problems and leave their families/loved ones without a father, mother, or friend before their time. If the passion of hunger is not managed, it can become a bad passion.

The trick, of course, is if a passion already has a pull on you, you don't tend to stop and consider the consequences, evaluate whether it is going to negatively affect you and/or others, and make a decision on whether to do it based on that evaluation. Why? Because here is a truth one needs to be aware of:

Passions motivate you to act. Reason lays the groundwork to support actions through the passions.

Reason doesn't motivate you to act. Reason can stir the passions within you to motivate you to act, but of itself, it is helpless to override one's passions. The stronger a passion is, the less that contradictory reasoning will be at reversing that passion and influencing a change of actions. This is exactly why someone who has become passionate about an affair relationship is not affected by some very logical and rational reasons to not go that route. Instead, they tend to use their reasoning to support what their passions are demanding to have.

However, reason is not helpless when coupled with the spiritual power I mentioned in the last article, and attempting to manipulate the passions through your mind, so that they change course. This is done by learning to feed the right wolf, the right passions. It is easiest to do this at the beginning of a passion's pull on you, but can be done at any stage. The following are tactics you can use to feed the right wolf.

1. Confession

If not to a priest or pastor, find a trustworthy friend who can hold you accountable. Tell them the story around the passions you are struggling with. By confessing it to someone you can talk to, you gain support and help in dealing with it. Confession is the first step toward conquering the passions. Once it is no longer your dark little secret, you are no longer emotionally blackmailed by it and have more freedom to fight against it.

2. Fasting

Based on Genesis 2, the first sin was a failure to fast from eating the fruit of a particular tree. God had told Adam not to eat from one tree. Yet, when push came to shove, he ate from it. When God questioned him on it, the first recorded instance of blameshifting occurs:

And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (Gen 3:12 KJV)

When it comes to food, we're pretty spoiled.

The passion of hunger is a foundational passion. If we fail to control that one, we will not be able to control any of them. Many of us rarely tell ourselves no with food unless we're already stuffed or can't afford it. Usually the only people who say no than those two are people losing weight, and we know how many tend to fail at that. But if you can tell yourself no to eating a food, simply because you've decided that for a period of time you are not going to eat something, it provides support for saying no to yourself in other situations, like when someone lights your fire.

It is best to have someone else help you establish a regular rule of fasting. If not your religious community, become accountable to a trusted friend. Start off small and work your way up. Maybe you'll decide to fast from meat on Fridays. Then later, for a whole week. Then later, maybe you'll join others in doing so for the Lenten season, or other group fasting periods.

3. Align Your Will with Your Mind

The will tends to be highly influenced by your passions. But it is possible to just say no with your will and mean it. Our problem is we're really good at knowing we need to say no, so we say it, but don't mean it.

Let your no be no.

Shortly after Lenita started her second physical affair, she could see where it was headed and she knew she needed to break it off. So she met her affair partner at the gym and they sat in her car. She told him this had to end. Despite that declaration, within minutes they were hugging and kissing, and it didn't stop, obviously, or I'd not be writing this blog right now. Why was her no not no?

Surprise! Our passions lie to us.

 They convince our brain that we have to obtain this feeling if we are to survive. We become convinced if we pass this up, we'll regret it for the rest of our lives and be miserable. The truth? You'll live, you'll enjoy life. Even more so because that passion didn't win in getting you to do something destructive to yourself and those you love.

You'll have more respect for yourself because you were driven by compassion instead of passion.

Paul stated it this way:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Gal 5:16-17 KJV)

This is where the key from the last article comes into play. He can help us align our will with the mind and not according to our passions.

But how do we access that power? By being drill-sergeant strict with ourselves.

You see, Lenita's no was not followed up by the corresponding actions. If she was serious about her no, she would have immediately requested he leave her car and to not contact her again, or approach her in the gym. If he didn't immediately respond, she would have stepped out of her car until he left. But she failed to say no with her actions. Why? Because she had not aligned her will with her mind, it was still influenced by her passion for him. Consequently, her words said no, but her actions said yes.

When we say no, our passions start working to wiggle their way back to a yes. They will work like the devil to keep even the smallest foot in the door. To let your no be no, you have to decide to firmly close the door. How?

By doing two things. Identify the boundaries that amount to squeezing a foot in the door for that passion. They tend to feel innocent, but you know where it will lead. List them out on paper if need be.

Then convince yourself that you will now be strict with yourself about those boundaries. Tell yourself you don't care how much you'll feel like you want it, no matter how much begging your emotions will do to cross this one innocent boundary, agree within yourself that nothing will move you to do that, no matter how bad you want to. Divorce the will from the passion. When you get ultra strict with yourself, refusing to allow emotions to influence your behavior, you can start starving the bad wolf.

4. Distractions

The above is preparatory work. But what happens in the midst of temptation to give in? There is a rule that monks have been taught in overcoming the slavery to passions, especially those of a sexual nature.

Frontal assaults on the passions rarely work. Instead, they end up feeding the passions.

Why? Because the more attention you give a passion, the stronger it becomes. A drunk doesn't conquer alcoholism by visiting bars on a regular basis. He does it by avoiding alcohol, by not thinking about it. So it is for overcoming a temptation. The more you think about it, even to focus on not giving in, the harder it becomes to avoid giving in. Because giving a passion your attention feeds it.

Instead, when tempting thoughts come to cross boundariess you know would lead to a bad place, do these or varations on these ways of distracting yourself so as not to think about it.

Use pain. Lenita was instructed by our priest to wear a rubber band around her wrist. When she found herself thinking negative thoughts, focusing on the affair, thinking about her affair partners, she was to snap the rubber band to distract her mind from those thoughts with the sting of pain. For her, it was highly effective.

Use music. Collect some uplifting songs on your portable music player. When tempting thoughts arrive, listen to the music to distract your mind. Sing along with it if possible.

Use prayer. Or if not religious, a saying you can repeat over and over. For Christians, an old short prayer known as the Jesus Prayer can be repeated as many times as necessary until the temptation passes: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Or the shorter version, "Lord, have mercy." Most religions would have similar prayers/meditations. If you are not religious, a saying like "Que sara, sara," "Whatever will be, will be" can be used.

Use work or a hobby. Keeping your mind busy and your body working avoids a passion from getting a strong hold on your attention. This is one of the reasons why monks will stay busy either working or praying, for hours. Too much idleness leads to focusing on the passions. Invest yourself in a productive hobby or volunteer to help someone rather that sitting around thinking about what your body is saying it really wants to do.

Use your friends. Especially those you've made yourself accountable to. When temptation arrives, ignore it by calling a friend, or anyone really, and focus on them. If you have an online support group, go there and spill it all on a forum rather than on your mind.

In effect, when a bad passion attacks, you defeat it by ignoring it. Remind yourself that you don't care how much you want something, that desire is a lie, then use one of the above methods of distraction to turn your attention away from the passion, and starve it to death. Over a period of time, you'll begin to realize you didn't need that passion to live, because you've been hardly thinking about it and life is still great. Even better than before.

When we are afflicted with a passion, sometimes we slip and fall to it.

Often when that happens, we'll feel like we're back at square one, and feel like giving up because we don't seem to be overcoming it.

That is the wrong way to think of it. Rather, think of it more like you're working to beat your last record. If one time you last three days before you allow yourself to think about the affair partner, stop. Use the methods above, and see how far you can get this time. If you go a week, that's some success. As you continue to pick yourself up, and go again, the passion will get weaker and weaker as you ignore it for longer and longer. Then at some point it will dawn on you that its been months since you've given your affair partner a second thought.

Then as we train ourselves on how to say no and mean it, it will provide us freedom from the slavery to our passions. We learn to control them instead of them controlling us.