Well, my library app informs me that this book will auto-return in four hours, and that I have used up all my borrows for this month, so here we go. Bullet points, favorite quotes & tangential rants to follow.
- Healthy relationships are marked by both attunement and containment.
- Attunement = seeing and validating the other person. Containment = setting boundaries
- Parenting is all about moderating attunement and containment. Example: “Drawing with chalk would be really fun but it’s bedtime right now. Maybe we can do chalk tomorrow.”
- Dan Allender (one of Stringer’s influences) says that children are always asking two questions of their parents. 1) Do you love me? 2) Will I get my own way?
- Healthy individuals learn to self-attune and self-contain. Example: “My desire for sex is good, but I’m alone in a hotel room on a business trip. Rather than look at porn, I will call my family.”
- In order to practice attunement and containment, you need to live in community.
“You need others to help you know who you are. When you allow your emotions to be seen, you will be less dependent on your need to escape them.”
- Because many of Stringer’s clients do not understand what healthy relationships look like, he spends some time spelling out how to connect with people. (Share your emotions, listen to your body, ask your spouse and friends about their lives, reflect on your week, forecast potential problems, don’t stonewall when you’re in conflict, pursue activities with friends)
- Attunement and containment are how we give and receive care. Most of Stringer’s clients do not recognize that they have any needs except sexual ones.
- ***Tara Rant*** And popular Christian marriage books often normalize and perpetuate this shallow view of men’s needs. According to these books, men have two needs: sex and respect…and the best way to show him respect is to have sex. These books usually also downplay female sexual desire. The end result? What God describes as “one flesh” is fragmented into a dehumanizing system of exchange. Husbands are told to emotionally connect with their wives in order that their wives will have sex with them (not because it is healthy and good to emotionally connect with your spouse). Likewise, wives are told to have sex with their husbands, not because it is healthy and good to have sex with your spouse, but because if you don’t, your husband will not engage with your emotions.
Conflict & Repair
- All healthy relationships have cycles of generative conflict and mature repair.
- Admitting sexual sin to a spouse is going to create conflict. It is important that repair be mature, not shallow.
- ***Tara Rant*** Some pastors/leaders will encourage husbands to shield details about sexual sin from their wives. I suppose this ties in with the belief that women are emotional, not sexual. They won’t understand, and they’ll just cry. I think this advice is terrible and much prefer Stringer’s view, which is…
- Refrain from telling your spouse the details of your unwanted sexual behavior until they have adequate levels of support around them. (In other words, tell her the gist, that you’re getting help, and encourage her to find a therapist or trusted friend to help her through the full disclosure yet to come)
In the last section of the book, Stringer focuses on the importance of community.
Community helps us
- experience structure and accountability
- learn to have our story held by others
- offer empathy and curiosity for the stories of others
- discover purpose
What does healthy accountability look like? It doesn’t look like a weekly bro-fest where everyone sticks a dollar in a jar for each lustful thought they had that week. It isn’t a time to feel better about your sin because everyone else is doing just as badly as you are.
When Stringer’s clients report good experiences with accountability groups, generally these two factors are at play. 1) Rather than policing bad behavior, the group emphasizes the past and present circumstances that influence unwanted sexual behavior. 2) The group emphasizes personal growth rather than dwelling on their powerlessness.
Because lack of purpose can increase a man’s involvement with porn by a factor of seven, it might actually be more profitable to meet with a friend for accountability about your goals and dreams.
“The joy set before you is to heal the wounds of your sexual brokenness, recognize they do not have the final word in your life, and open a new map to travel to the places you’ve always wanted to go. Paradoxically, you will find that your wounds and struggles are the very things that have most prepared you for the journey ahead. The ultimate defeat of evil is not the ability to bury your past; it is to allow wisdom to form within your wounds in order to guide you to a land you have yet to find. In God’s economy, nothing is lost. Everything, even your sexual brokenness, belongs.”
Alright, library app. You can make this digital book disappear from my phone now.