Tag Archives: Relationships

Emotional Ransomware

Ransomware

I recently got attacked by an Internet virus in the category called “ransomware”. It installs itself on your computer and encrypts all your files of certain types so they cannot be read. In my case it encrypted all my pictures, word processor, spreadsheet and pdf files. And yes, I went through the stages of grief. It is very insidious because it comes with a promise to restore files that were stolen from you – for a price. The rub, of course, is that you have to trust a criminal to follow through with what they promise. And eventually you will have to arrive at the conclusion: “Not likely.”

I wonder if there are also emotional equivalents in relationships. In the computer version, you believe you are allowing a legitimate program to install on your hard drive, usually in the form of a software or program update. In the emotional version you allow someone to install a program on your heart. And if that “program” has bad intentions or is damaged, it  steals your confidence, your dignity, your choices, or some other quality of life.

What ransom is being asked for by the thief? Perhaps it’s sex. Or it might be complete obedience or exclusivity. Maybe it’s a demand to accept bad behavior unconditionally like anger or criticism or manipulative crying or selfishness.

Breaking it down. What did I do wrong?

First, I was too fast to respond. I didn’t take my time and really pay attention and think through my actions. I ignored a little voice inside of me that asked “Are you sure?” Instead, I wanted to move ahead with the current task and so accepted what was interrupting my screen. Impatience can really get me in trouble sometimes.

Secondly, I was too trusting. I should not have accepted the request on face value without investigating further. I can be naïve. “No one would really try to harm me.” Really? So what are all those security programs for? Just because someone copied and pasted a logo doesn’t mean it’s authentic.

So when it comes to relationships are you impatient? Do you move ahead too quickly out of desire to move from “me” to “us”? As you got older did you feel the time was running out and so now you are not as cautious as you once were? Or maybe you have always been this way and need to reassess.

Are you too trusting and transparent and tend to open up completely when you should be observing and testing. Trust is not just supposed to be given unconditionally. It must be earned over time. Are you swayed by the company a person keeps assuming they are just as reliable? That’s the equivalent of a cut-and-pasted logo. Authenticity is not guaranteed.

A well known verse in the Bible says:

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

I think that’s the best advice of all!

The Road To Relationship

road relationship

I believe the road to relationship is paved with good intentions. All the things we intend to do to find and sustain a wonderful union are usually noble. We will be kind, generous, thoughtful and attentive. And we intend to find someone who is like minded. So how do some relationships go sideways with all these good intentions?

I think some wonky relationships can be traced back to the very beginning. Either our “picker” is broken or our process is flawed. Submitted for your consideration:

Attraction

Sometimes attraction can be almost instantaneous. We have this feeling that “we just know” this is the right person. Translation: My hormones are raging and the reason center of my brain just shut down. I am “crazy” in love. Nobody can talk to me because all I see is a romantic future with this person. I say somebody forgot to install brakes on this bus. Two such impulsive people are likely to be heading off a cliff in the future.

I think attraction is very important. Without it, sustaining a relationship can be quite challenging. Lacking attraction we may choose rationally, based on practical criteria. That’s important, of course, but not the stuff you want to depend on for intimacy. A fat paycheck and a hot meal is great, but it’s not the stuff of deep connectedness.

Character

This is the part of the relationship that takes time to know. Character is discovered over a longer period of time. This is where you watch to see if their words and their actions match up over time and through challenging situations. They “intend” to operate with integrity and virtue, but when things heat up they may melt. When temptation hits, they just can’t quite resist. Nobody can be perfect, but a little bit of infidelity can sour a sweet relationship, and a few little (or big) lies can break trust.

The Sex Factor

This is the fly in the ointment for many relationships. Once this boundary has been crossed, discernment is compromised. We are operating mostly from feelings and not rationality. We “feel” so close to each other. We “know” the other person. They are our “soul mate.” No, they are our sin mate and backing up the relationship becomes difficult. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy and we have just gone from 0-200 mph in 10 seconds flat.

Same Mistake, Different Person

We are generally attracted to the same type of person. This imprint can bite us when our tendency is to make bad choices. I especially caution those that are considering marriage for a second (or third) time to pay attention to this reality. Even if the externals look very different, people often pick the same character and personality repeatedly. This is where listening very carefully to outside counsel is essential.

What is the answer?

Take your time. Have fun the first six months, but don’t get too serious. Once a full year has gone by, it’s time to make a decision. Don’t linger on for years. Most characterological defects can be discovered adequately in one year and the chemical wash to the brain that makes us irrational will subside. Then if you can say “yes” to the person exactly as they are, then move forward. And pray that the good intentions become good follow through.

Don’t Make Me Go to Counseling

dragged into counseling

We are blessed not to have to work with people mandated by the court system to be in counseling. The closest we ever get is evaluating a couple for an adoption or foster care agency. But there is a significant difference. The couple is there because they have a positive goal in mind, even though they may not love the process.

The same might be said of other kinds of counseling clients. I must say that when I entered counseling with Nan my resistance was high. I did not freely choose the counseling at the time, but was “coerced” by her counselor. Outwardly I was compliant, but inwardly I was pretty defended. I have real empathy for people who feel like I did back then. It can be stressful not knowing what to expect or what might be required of you. I like to remind clients that they always have a choice whether to continue.

Now that I counsel, I have a lot of compassion for counselors as well. Working with resistant clients is challenging because even though you envision a positive outcome for them, they may not see it. It’s a lot like presenting the Christian faith. You’ve experienced all the gains, but the other person might only see losses.

The longer I counsel, and the shorter my remaining time to work professionally with people, the more inclined I am to only work with those who actually want to grow and change. Except for grief counseling, which is different, I am less interested in just hearing people complain, with no intention of taking positive action. I think that when venting feelings is the goal, it might be best accomplished with a safe prayer partner who can empathize and encourage. Sometimes we need that until we are ready to take action steps. But the work of counseling is transformation, whether of self or relationship or family or work.

Successful clients understand this. We have found a few things that seem to be common to these clients.

  • They do the homework
  • They read books relevant to their journey
  • They are persistent and hungry for growth
  • They listen
  • They take constructive criticism seriously

So does this mean that I am not open to hearing complaints? Of course not. Processing pain and discouragement and frustration and fear with people is a staple of counseling. It is a necessary step in order to move beyond those things. It is when the only purpose is to vent or hold someone else’s change as the goal that I want to refer a client on to someone else who might work better with them.

Does this sound heartless? I hope not. My deep desire is that people get better, live more satisfying lives, feel safe, receive love and love well in return. I believe that is God’s deep desire as well.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”