Have you ever been told by your spouse, “You need to forgive and forget.” I have lots of couples come in where one partner reports that the other partner broke their trust and they are not sure how to deal with it. They also say that when they are told they just need to forgive and forget, it does not help. If you have ever tried to forgive and forget, you know it’s hard, if not, impossible.

Trust can be broken in many different ways. A little white lie or major infidelity can destroy trust. The intensity of the hurt depends solely on the individual who is on the receiving end of that broken trust. So, can a person really “forgive and forget?” I believe that people can’t forget most hurtful events. The human brain is made to be able to retain information, especially information that has an impact on the person. Yes there are times where information is not retained, such as, when the brain is damaged through physical drama or may when the impacting event is so devastating that the brain cannot process the information produced by the event. Also, there can be other times when a person may not remember something. Also, different types of brain memory play a part in remembering information. Lets discuss this further.

Types of Memory

To better help understand how memory works lets look at what types of memory a human brain has. First, the human brain has what is called declarative memory (explicit memory). Declarative memory is simply when one is trying to remember something (ie, a name, a list of items, a phone number, etc). Also, the human brain has what is called non-declarative memory (implicit memory). Non-declarative memory involves an involuntary response to something because of what happened in the past. This type of memory happens without your awareness. For example, lets say when you were a child lighting struck your house and now as an adult you shake for no reason when a thunder storm comes. Your brain remembers that lightning strike even though you may have experience many thunder storms without lightning hitting your house since.

Declarative memory brakes down  into working memory (short term memory) and episodic memory (long term memory). Short term memory is reactionary memory where we remember something that just happened within 2 to 18 seconds after the event. Episodic memory helps a person to remember important events throughout ones life that forms beliefs and thoughts about the world. Also, there is Semantic memory that helps to remember details when something is memorized, such as, math or vocabulary.

Non-declarative memory brakes down into primal memory, procedural memory and classical conditioning. Primal memory is helps to remember how to respond to different past events and can make response quicker. Procedural memory is used to helping to learn to drive and do task well. For example, driving a car is tough at first, but after lots of practice, automatic memory takes over and the mechanics to driving help a person to do many of the things required for driving without thinking about it. Classical conditioning is memory that comes about as a person makes associations to other things, whether good or bad, so as to be able to make better choices.

So much more can be said about memory to help us understand that remembering or forgetting something may be very complex. Based on what we know so far about memory, many things can interrupt the declarative memory, but non-declarative memory is not well controlled. Is broken trust associated with non-declarative or declarative memory? Broken trust involves cognitive and emotional reactions. It can almost be traumatic, if only minimally. When an emotional reaction is part of the memory process, working memory last longer and episodic memory is triggered the more intense the emotional reaction. Non-declarative memory is not associated with memories of history, except to the point of how one might react the next time the same type of event happens.

Therefore, declarative memory, and even more, episodic memory takes over when trust is involved. So now we need to consider how or if a person can forget something.

Forgetfulness

There are several ways that people possibly forget things.  Short term memory, decay, displacement and interference can all three be ways someone can forget something. Decay is when a person does not go over information enough to retain it. Displacement is when new memories replace old memories which can be a very positive form of forgetting in hopes of replacing negative memories with positive memories. Interference happens when a person attempts to remember things that are very similar and because they are so similar they can become mixed up.

Long term memory appears to have no limit and possibly stores all information. Some theories believe that information lost, may still be stored in the brain, but may be inaccessible. It is still unclear how much someone can actually forget. It does seem clear that a person can forget information by decay and interference that comes from similar memories.

Forget or Move Forward?

As a marriage counselor I have found a better way to understand that “forgive and forget” debate. I am one to believe and it is confirmed by the information I have shared in the rest of this blog post, memories moments that have a major impact in our lives tend to stick with us. I believe they are hard to get rid of and triggers can bring back up that memory any time that trigger is presented. So, forgetting is not a very useful word when it comes to resolving issues of trust.

I have started telling couples to use the phrase, “Forgive and Move Forward.” Why? Well, forgetting is hard, if not impossible, as we have discussed. In the very least, it could take days, weeks, months and sometimes years to heal from a break of trust. Also, when told to “forgive and forget,” it can deepen the hurt of the victim because a tone of “not caring” is displayed in the betrayer, which further affirms that the betrayer broke trust.  Many of my clients have enjoyed using the phrase “moving forward.” It appears to give them empowerment to be able to make changes and heal. If you are moving forward, then the person is making progress and being pro-active. Moving forward can involve being intentional, but also helps to dispel the fact that the person will not just “get over” something. It is not and will never be that easy.

So, next time you think about telling your spouse to forgive and forget, please stop yourself. Instead, ask how you can help and what can you do as a couple to move forward to heal the relationship.

How can a relationship be improved by just improving your mind? People talk about improving your mind to stay smart and move up in your career or create a new invention or get invited on Jeopardy. Who thinks about improving the mind to improve a relationship? Improving the mind is not usually connected to relationships, and yet, it has been said to be one of the easiest ways to improve a relationship.

You’ve heard of the power of positive thinking, but have you considered that this concept may help with a relationship.  You might be saying, “Well that is common sense.” I would tell you, “You’re right! So why don’t you practice it daily?” I don’t think about positive thinking daily. I have clients come in my office who I teach this concept and ask them to practice it over the next week. Guess what they say when they come back. They say, “I didn’t really think about it.”  My first thought is, “What?!!  I  work hard to provide the reasoning and the whole package of information and you don’t even think about it?” I am truly stunned when people say that to me. It is common sense right?

What I have learned is that this concept may be common sense, but we truly don’t take the time to remember or think about how our thinking affects us.  If we remembered moment to moment to check our thinking for positivity, then many aspects of our life would be much easier (ie, relationships, jobs, standing in line, etc). I want to focus on relationships though.

Think about your work place. Who do you hang around? Who would you like to hang around? Are they mostly positive or negative throughout the day? Have you ever been around someone who was very positive? Are they not more enjoyable to be around? Were you more positive when you were around them? Positivity not only feels good, it rubs off on us! Unfortunately, negativity rubs off on us too.

So, positivity proves to draw people together in ways that make people feel good. Common sense says that this concept would help us in our marriages and relationships. If positivity draws people together in ways that make them feel good, then positivity would draw couples together and help them feel good. When I feel good around my wife, I feel closer to her. Simple right? If I am positive towards her, she seems to react more positively towards me. Yay!

How are we missing this simple change in thoughts that will change our lives? In my experience, we don’t think about it. This means, we have to remind ourselves to think positively every minute of the day. What are some ways that you can think of to remind yourself to think positive thoughts?  David Carnes writes in an article about positive thinking, “The first step in positive thinking is to make a habit of asking yourself “What am I thinking right now?” at various points during the day until your “meta-awareness” of your own thinking becomes second nature to you.” Find what works for you today and start NOW! Why wait!?

Do you ever feel like you say, “I love you” all the time? Does it ever feel like you use it like a security blanket? Almost like, if you didn’t say it, maybe the love would stop or your spouse or significant other would stop loving you, be angry with you, or leave you? Love is a common word in our world. It is said everyday by, well, probably almost everyone. I tell my children, my wife, my parents and my siblings I love them every chance I get.

Using the term so much may seem like the word gets overused and maybe abused. Yet, as we get closer to Valentine’s Day,  just like what happens around Christmas and Thanksgiving, I am feeling the urge to think more about this nostalgic topic. Why? Well, just like celebrating Jesus’ birth at Christmas and giving thanks at Thanksgiving, love should be practiced all year round, not just on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand love and would like to know more about it. So, I hope to inspire intentional love as we approach this upcoming holiday by helping you understand love a little better.

Remember who created love.? That big guy in the sky whose name is, God! God even calls himself love in the Bible. So, understand this phenomenon of love then we need to consult God.  What does the Bible say about love?  Here are a few verses that tell us what God says love is:

Romans 13:10   “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8    “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

1 Corinthians 13:13  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1John 4:18-19   “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not make perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

John 15:13   “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Ephesians 5:25  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Ephesians 5:33  “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Colossians 3:14 “And over all these things put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”

Proverbs 10:12  “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”

And on, and on, and on… I could be typing a while if I list all the verses that talk about love, but these are a good start. As you read these verses, how do you feel? As I typed, something stirred in me. I felt encouraged. I thought, “I want to be more loving!” Just reading God’s word made me feel that way! But what does that mean and how do we become more loving?

So what is love? Here are 4 themes:

  1. Sacrifice: In the verses above God directly talks about Jesus’ sacrifice as loving. Not only the loving, but greater love and the greatest out of faith hope and love.
  2. Qualities: Love is patient, kind, does not envy, is not proud or haughty, does not talk about itself, its respectful, it does not seek after self, but looks after others, its trusting, its calm, it doesn’t get angry with you, it doesn’t get outdone, it rejoices in truth and hates evil, and protects, hopes, trusts and perseveres.
  3. Instructions on how to be loving: God’s words tell you what to do. He says to love like Christ and like you love yourself. It says to put on love.
  4. And details of what love does not look like: Its not boastful, it’s not hateful, it’s not evil, it’s not divided, it’s not arguing, it’s not conflict, it’s not hitting, it’s not lying, it’s not fearful…

The above 4 themes provide a clearer view of what love looks like from God’s view. How do these translate into action and loving others better? Here are some examples.

  • If you see someone downcast and not looking happy at work, stop and chat with them.
  • If your child is acting up, give her a little hug and grace.
  • If your wife is in a hormone enraged mood, smile and hold her or just listen if she won’t let you touch her.
  • When your wife is shopping and you want to go home and watch the game, let her shop and even help her pick out some outfits.
  • When your buddy makes more than you and you want his lifestyle, don’t envy. Embrace him and let him know he is blessed and take joy that your friend is doing so well.
  • Above all, listen to God and ask him to help you learn how to love better.

Love is very complex. To love better, we need to be aware of what it is and how to express it . As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, let’s consider sacrifice as our number one way to love because that’s how Christ showed us to love. Make it a habit to think about others needs and put them before you, even if it makes you tired or sore.  Think about what other people need and how you can help them. Let’s share God’s love today and everyday to help make this world a safer and more healthy place. As you move through your day, be intentional about loving and live to love. Your life will be better and more fulfilling if you pursue love as a goal.

* Before I start, I won’t to preface this blog post with a clarification. In my practice I do not judge others or push my beliefs on others. Counseling is about helping others reach their stated goals and not working on my goals. However, all people hold beliefs and these beliefs effect how they interact with others. My hope is that I interact with love, hope and understanding..

When a person thinks about sex therapy, I am almost sure that a Hollywood film starts playing in their mind. Sex therapy is mythical to people, conjuring up thoughts of intense emotions and fantasies. Thinking about sex therapy in this way is exactly that, a fantasy.  Sex therapy is far from what you see in Hollywood.  Although, just saying sex therapy can still make a person feel very uncomfortable, which brings me to why I offer sex therapy.

As a sex therapist, I can tell you that those who train others in sex therapy and provide supervision demonstrate a whole new respect for what sex really is. Through these brave souls, I have learned that sex is nothing to be scared of. The culture has made it taboo and negative in connotation. Even talking about sex in public arenas conjures up glancing eyes and awkward avoidance. However, humans are at their simplest, sexual beings. We were created with sexual anatomy. We were formed with intense emotions of love and passion. The problem is not sex; the problem is how the culture perceives sex. The reality is, sex is good when experienced within the proper boundaries of a committed marital relationship.

Thus, I offer sex therapy because when sex is used properly within a committed, loving and passionate relationship, it can be beautiful, intimate and empowering to the individuals involved. I believe sex is God’s gift to married couples to portray the power that two individuals can display when their relationship becomes so intimate that they enhance each other’s qualities and abilities due to pure acceptance and understanding of one another even at the deepest level of intimacy.

Just writing that last paragraph made the “feels” rise up in me. To be so in love and intimate with someone that knows everything about you and can read you’re every move is a feeling that makes a person entirely alive. I long to know my wife in that way and for her to know me.  Obviously, that would be perfection and although it may be attainable, most people never reach it. What if you could get a glimpse of it? What if you could feel that way even minimally on a regular basis?

This understanding of sex only comes from the knowledge of God’s intended uses for sex. Yes, sex is accompanied by intense pleasure in the moment and if you are not careful, or just desire to decrease your finances some (ie, this is a joke), a few offspring might be in your future. I believe though sex was intended to be much more. I believe it was intended to help to improve the marriage relationship and mirror some aspect of how amazing God is.

So, why do I offer sex therapy in my practice? I offer sex therapy because sex is central to a deep, loving and intimate marriage that empowers the individuals involved to help grow and evolve into more complete people. Research demonstrates that stronger families create stronger individuals and stronger communities. Stronger families improve quality of life and education for children. Stronger families decrease the number of incarcerations and crimes. Stronger families keep people safer.

Sex is only a part of the marriage relationship, but it is essential and powerful in strengthening the central most important part (ie, the married couple) of the family. Thus, if you are having sexual difficulties in your marriage, please talk to a professional who will keep your information confidential so you at least know the options available to you.