Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Boyfriend Revealed He is Addicted to Pornography

Dear Aunt Dara,

After my boyfriend and I began talking about marriage, he confessed to me that he has struggled with an addiction to pornography for the past couple of years.  I feel very hurt and betrayed.  Not only was he involved in this sinful act, but he started a relationship with me while it was a problem and he hid it from me and lied about it to me for this long.  

I feel lost and I don't know what to do or how to handle the situation.  My boyfriend and I have had our challenges before, and I'm struggling with trying to identify whether God is trying to tell me that this is not the man for me, or if He is ensuring that we are a strong couple and through His work we can make it through anything together.  We currently are broken up while he works on his recovery, and I now am faced with the decision (once he's recovered) to forgive him and pick up where we left off or to leave him and move on.

My boyfriend truly wants to become a better man for himself, for God, and for me.  He has tried to fix his addiction multiple times before, but they all have failed.  He realized that the only way to really overcome his problem is to have lost the one most important thing in his life because of it - that being me - and the only way to gain me back is if his addiction is no longer existent.  That all is flattering and I very much appreciate that he is trying so hard to eliminate the issue, but I don't know what's more important - the fact that he is truly committed to changing to become a better man, or the fact that he has been observing sinful material for TWO YEARS and hid it from the woman he plans to marry.

I would very much appreciate any insight and advice you have about this situation.  At the least, prayer to allow my (ex) boyfriend to quickly and effectively find healing and recovery and for me to find clarity as to what to do about the situation would mean a lot to me.

Thank you so much,
Loved and Betrayed

Dear Loved and Betrayed,

I strongly suspect that any change that your (ex) boyfriend makes will only be temporary based on his long-term history of this behavior, his multiple failed attempts to change on his own, his apparent lack of remorse for having sinned against God, and his current reasons to want to change.  Let me explain.

“Addiction” to pornography is not an illness from which one needs to recover.  (I speak as a Christian and a licensed mental health professional.)  Your boyfriend has been habitually engaging in a willful, sinful behavior, and he needs to repent.  It appears that you may have fallen for his excuse that he has an “addiction” from which he needs to “recover,” and he seems to be offering an excuse for future failure by telling you that he has “tried to fix his addiction multiple times before but they have all failed.”  The reason that his past attempts to stop his sinful habit have failed is because he was trying to “fix” it on his own—without God and without the power of the Holy Spirit.  True repentance is based on godly sorrow for having sinned against God (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Where was the godly sorrow?  Where was the confession of sin against God (I John 1:9)?  Where was repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22)?  Where was the reliance on Christ for strength (Philippians 4:13, John 15:5)?  Only by doing these things can he overcome his problem, regardless of his assertion that the only way to overcome his problem is realizing that he has lost the most important thing in his life (you) because of it.  Furthermore, the most important thing in anyone’s life should be God!

If he truly believes that the only way to get you back is “if his addiction is no longer existent,” he will lie and tell you what you want to hear.  Repentance based on sorrow for having hurt or disappointed another human being will only last as long as the relationship lasts, or until the person is able to resume his sinful behavior in secret.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that he can’t change, or that he can’t be forgiven, or that he can’t live a pure life in the future.  What I am saying is that he needs to take personal responsibility for his behavior and acknowledge that it is sin, not an “addiction” or illness from which he needs “recovery.”  He needs to genuinely repent for the right reasons and pray to God for forgiveness.  Above all, he needs to put God first in his life—not you.

God bless,

Aunt Dara

Monday, November 11, 2013

Is Her Marriage Built on Lies?

Dear Aunt Dara, 

I've been married about two months.  I am 19 soon to be 20 and my husband is 22.  We are expecting a baby in a few months and I love my husband very much.  We got married because we knew we were right for each other and the baby just sped up our marriage date.

Here's the problem.  Ever since we've gotten married, my husband has been acting more and more like a child than a grown man!  And today he got tired of me and just left the house in my car.  I've called him 5 times today and texted once and he ignored me!  To top it off, he left his i-pod at home today and I looked through his messages (which I know was wrong).  He has been messaging his child's mother (who doesn't know he's married) very often and there are messages with lots of hearts and smiley faces.  They even say they love each other or they miss each other!  One said that they wished the relationship could have worked out!  These messages were sent a couple of months to a month before we were to get married.  What should I do?  I've been praying and asking God for spiritual growth for the both of us and protection of our marriage, but I feel that my husband's faith is stagnant.  The messages make me feel that our marriage is built on lies. 

Feeling Deceived and Defeated 

Dear Deceived and Defeated,

As I read your letter, I have to wonder just how committed your husband is to you and your marriage.  It seems a little strange that he was sending these types of messages to another woman so shortly before your marriage.  I also wonder how committed you are to making your marriage work, since you seem to be harboring some resentment and negative thoughts about your husband.  Negative thoughts produce negative attitudes, which produce negative behaviors, and ultimately lead to negative outcomes.  Many, many couples divorce because one or both of them begin entertaining negative thoughts about their spouse, focusing on their spouse’s faults, and dwelling on how miserable they feel because their spouse isn’t making them happy. 

However, marriage isn’t about what you get from the other person—it’s about what you give.  Successful marriages are built on honesty, trust, respect, faithfulness, intimacy, kindness, consideration, and affection.  You can’t make your husband give you these things, but you can make a commitment to give these things to your husband.  Furthermore, there is no place for secrecy in marriage, because the Bible says that husband and wife are to become as one (Gen. 2:24, Matthew 19:5).  Ephesians 5:22-33 instructs us in how husbands and wives are to treat each another.  You and your husband need to have a heart-to-heart talk, being totally honest with each other, confessing your faults to each other and forgiving each other.  The two of you need to pray together regularly for spiritual growth and for your marriage.  That child that you will soon be bringing into the world deserves to have two parents who love God and love each other.

Unfortunately, the other woman will always be a part of your lives because she and your husband share a child.  However, your husband must not place himself in a position where he will be tempted into sin, and he should immediately stop communicating with her in secret.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Monday, September 30, 2013

Is God Punishing Him?

Dear Aunt Dara, 

Recently I was tricked by my friend into going to a heavy metal concert.  The music this band played went against all good Christian ideals, and many of the fans were encouraging this and even shouting things such as, "Hail Satan", etc.  Then as I was driving home my car was starting to make strange sounds, and the engine eventually stopped working and started smoking.  We had to call a tow-truck, and now the car is ruined.  I am very worried.  Is God punishing me for going to this heavy metal concert and being with such an unsavory crowd?  Please help!

Punished by God

Dear Punished,

I don't know if God was punishing you or not, but I think that the important question to ask is, "What is the lesson to be learned from this?"  If this experience makes you more careful about the friends you choose, the places you go and the types of entertainment that you participate in, and brings you closer to God, then the loss of your car was worth it.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Still Struggling to Rebuild Trust in an Unfaithful Spouse

Dear Aunt Dara,

About this time last year, I discovered my wife had been having an affair with another man for two years.  My wife has always claimed to be a Christian woman and has always been active in the church, same as myself.  She seemed sincerely repentant for her actions, and because we have young children we decided to try to work it out.  I still struggle to trust her, and while I don't believe she has had any further incidents of unfaithfulness, I recently discovered that there were some things she lied to me about regarding the affair.  Most disturbing was that she had this man in our house while I was at work and the kids were "hopefully" sleeping.  I let her know that I found out she’d lied about his being in the house, and she just got angry that I was bringing up the past.  She said she had already repented and that I just need to leave the past in the past.  

I have several questions I need help with.  First, should I even have brought this new revelation up, or are any new facts from the past meaningless?  Second question is, since I know who this guy is, would it be right for me to talk to him?  Part of me just wants him to know that I know what he did.  Lastly, I often question my wife's faith.  Can she really be a Christian woman and do what she did?  I know it's been over a year, but I am struggling to believe she can stay faithful based on the intensity of her affair and what she was willing to do at that time, even though I do believe she has been faithful since then.  I know that some if these issues are better suited for therapy, but I just want a Christian perspective on my thoughts from someone who doesn't know either person and is unbiased.

Struggling Husband

Dear Struggling Husband,

First of all, I want to validate your feelings.  Considering what you have told me, it is perfectly understandable that you are struggling to trust your wife again.  You were lied to and cheated on by the one closest to you that you trusted.  Next, I want to commend you for forgiving your wife and working on keeping your marriage together.  I believe that God is pleased with your decision to do so. 

To answer your questions, adultery and lying are two separate things, so I think that it was reasonable for you to address the lies, and she should be repentant of that sin also.  However, what good would be accomplished by talking to the other man?  If it is just to let him know that you know what he did, that will just make the situation worse.  Even if your motives were pure, confronting your wife’s ex-lover is not a good idea and could be very risky.  In this matter, I agree with your wife—let the past stay in the past.  Concentrate on rebuilding your relationship with your wife and put the thoughts about the other man out of your mind.  You and your wife may need to have marital counseling with your pastor or a Christian counselor to get past this.  And don’t try to determine if your wife is really a Christian woman.  We are all just weak human beings who mess up all the time and do things that we deeply regret later.  Read Psalm 103:8-14 and think about the things that its writer David did.

I pray the best for you and your family.  God bless,
Aunt Dara 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

She Thinks her Husband is a Hypocrite

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have a husband who is leading a Christian recovery program and in his spare alone time, he watches violent non-rated movies.  Yesterday he seemed to be acting distant, so I checked his Netflix account and saw that he had watched a movie with female nudity.  He and I have been married for almost 7 years, but he's hardly affectionate to me.  The only time he ever reached out to hold me while in bed was when there was an earthquake, and he wanted me to be calm.  That was within the first two months of our marriage.  The only time he sits next to me and puts his arm around me is in church.  I'm so mad at him.  How can he watch these evil movies, and actually allow his eyes to look at those other women.  Yuck!  I know I'm fat, but it's still not right!  I feel like he's a hypocrite for marrying me and then not even showing me affection or that he treasures me.  Actually, he watched prostitution movies before on my Netflix account, so I cancelled it and he soon opened his own account. 

A tough thing is that I've had boyfriends in the past who simply slow-danced with me, and actually happily read a Bible together with me, and wanted to speak with me about dreams and goals.  Those memories make it hard for me to be satisfied today.  I feel as if we're taking turns playing video games and going through evil motions of wasting time.  I'm actually a co-leader with him in the recovery group, and I don't want to go back when I see what he chooses to watch in his spare time.  Do you have any suggestion on what I should do?

Disillusioned Wife

Dear Disillusioned Wife,

I have never taken this long to reply to a letter before, so I ask your forgiveness for my delay.  I know that I have some things to say to you that may be very hard for you to hear, so please forgive me if my reply may seem to be blunt, or even harsh.  Please understand that my intention is to be helpful, not hurtful.

It is obvious that what you are doing to try to change your husband isn’t working, so it’s time for a new strategy:  Change yourself.  Let me explain.

Your anger and behavior toward your husband are counterproductive to improving your marriage.  Furthermore, you are playing with fire when you think about former boyfriends who seemed to be more affectionate and loving toward you than your husband is.  You must get these other men out of your mind or your thoughts will poison what relationship you still have with your husband, as will your angry thoughts toward him regarding his choice to participate in ungodly entertainment.  Your husband obviously is not listening to you when you try to get him to stop viewing unsuitable material, and he may view your efforts to get him to stop as being controlling and manipulative.  He needs to reach the decision to change his behavior on his own, and repentance can only occur if he has godly sorrow for doing things that displease God (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Otherwise, even if he does stop, he would just be doing it to get you to stop criticizing him (which is why he does these things in secret).  Does your husband even acknowledge that he is participating in sinful entertainment?  I encourage you pray for him and solicit assistance from your church leaders to teach him how to live a more pure life. 

I also recommend that you change your behavior and attitude toward your husband by focusing on his strengths, treating him with respect and kindness, and being affectionate toward him rather than being hurt and upset because he isn’t affectionate toward you.  Do not harbor any negative thoughts toward your husband, but treat him the way that you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).  Strive to become a woman of meek and gentle spirit who loves her husband (1 Peter 3:1-6), and let God change your husband.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Younger Woman Dating an Older Man

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am 26 years old and have been dating a 45-yr-old man for two years.  We love each other very much and would like to get married in the near future.  He is divorced with two children.  He's a very good father to his children and I know he'll make a good husband.  We are both Christians.  We get along very well, share similar interest and goals, and appear to be compatible.  I'm Nigerian but have been living in the states since I was 17.  My parents still live in Nigeria.  The problem is my parents want me to end the relationship with him because of our age difference and the fact that he has been divorced and has two children.  My dad referred to him as "second hand" because he's been divorced and says he will never give me to marriage to him.  My parents say he will divorce me too.  My dad referenced the Bible that God hates divorce.  My dad said he does not feel at peace with our relationship and he has been praying for me.  They are worried that I'll bring shame to them and people will talk about it.  The main issues that my parents have with him are his age, divorced and two children.

I have been praying about our relationship because I knew it was going to be challenging.  I have prayed for God's guidance and discernment in helping me to make a good decision that will honor God.  He has been praying also.  I have often felt afraid of him passing before me because he's much older.  The thought of being without him hurts, but with prayer I've been able to deal with it.

I love my parents and do not want to disappoint them.  I've always done what they wanted but I'm at a point where I don't want to end the relationship and I don't think my parents will ever change their minds.  I also feel I cannot live my life for them or for the Nigerian culture and what people back home would think or say.  I feel torn.  What do I do?

Younger Woman

Dear Younger Woman,

First of all, I want to commend you on the mature way that you are approaching this.  Obviously the two of you love God and each other, and you are seeking God’s guidance.  I really believe that your parents have your best interest in mind more than their concern about what others will think.  They want you to make a wise decision and believe that marriage to an older, divorced man with children will ultimately be a mistake.  It is natural for parents to feel this way and they believe they are giving you wise counsel.  The Bible instructs us to listen to our parents (Proverbs 13:1), but that doesn’t mean that our parents are always right and that adult children should always do what their parents say.  You must do what God is leading you to do.

That being said, your parents do have some valid concerns.  God intends for marriage to be a lifetime covenant (Mark 10:2-10).  When a couple marries, they are taking a solemn vow to God that they will be committed to each other for life.  To break a vow to God is a very serious matter (Deuteronomy 23:21-23).  The Bible does say that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), but God also forgives sin and wants us to stop committing sin.  So, if this man marries you, will he fulfill his vow to God by making a lifetime commitment to you?  What were the reasons behind his divorce?  What did he learn from his failed marriage?  What changes is he making to avoid repeating a painful past?  Consider very carefully that the person that you marry will have a profound affect on your life and your eternal destiny.  Will this man help you to get to heaven?  I’m sure that these questions trouble your parents.

Your parents also have concerns about his having children, and for good reason because the children will have an impact on your marriage.  Divorce is never good for children.  Divorce can be very harmful to children.  Even having a good father and a good step-mother cannot compensate for children not being raised in an intact home with both biological parents.  How do his children feel about you?  How do they feel about your relationship with their father?  How old are the children?  If the children are not grown yet, with whom do they live and what are the custody and child support arrangements?  These are but a few of the factors that will have an impact on your marriage.

Finally, there are problems with large age differences in a couple.  (Please refer to my post on January 4, 2011 titled “She’s Old Enough to be His Mother.”)  There is a strong likelihood that he might pass on before you do, but the possibility of widowhood should not keep you from living the life that God wants you to have now.  Keep praying for God’s guidance and do what God wants you to do.  I will keep praying for you, too.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leisure Activities for Christian Youth

Dear Aunt Dara, 

I lived a typical "born in a Christian family" environment until Christ called me to the evangelical community.  Although I accepted myself as that, until recently I was frequently devoting myself to more and more satanic-underlain activities.  Now, after a recent retreat, God called me to live a more holy life-style.  I've managed to cut out video/computer games, secular music, and re-vamped my drawing style, but now I find myself struggling to find things to fill my time.  As much as I love to read the Bible and pray, are there any activities that I could do without turning from God and would still be benefiting God? 

And at the same time, I've recently found myself in a relationship.  It's with a 15-year-old that I met through the church.  He's been through his share of hardships, and now devotes himself to God as I do.  However, both of us are introverts, so I fear that we'll quickly become awkward around one another.  Mostly, though, my concern is that we'll distract each other from God or do things displeasing to God.  Do you have any advice or pointers for us?

Teenage Revelator

Dear Teenage Revelator,
Congratulations on your decision to turn from activities that draw you away from God and deciding to re-dedicate your life to God.  You will be tempted to return to unholy activities, but keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and let Him lead you into wholesome, godly activities that will keep you on the right path.  There are many activities that a Christian young person can do to bring them closer to God.  Here’s a brief list: Become active in a church youth group, get involved in service activities at your church, volunteer in community service activities (ask your youth pastor or teacher for ideas about opportunities in your community), find something nice or special to do for someone, listen to Christian music, read books by Christian authors, attend a week at a Christian youth camp.  Other activities that Christian teens can do to occupy their time and counteract boredom are: Get involved in sports, exercise, play games, read books, do some research and become an expert in some topic that interests you, learn a foreign language, write poetry or stories, work puzzles, grow a garden, learn to sew, learn to paint or sculpt, learn to play a musical instrument, learn to cook and/or bake, or develop some other hobby that interests you.  As a last resort you could ask your parents or grandparents to tell you stories about their childhood. (Well, maybe not that one.)

Regarding your concerns about how you and your boyfriend may influence each other, avoid being alone with him to reduce temptations.  Get him involved in doing some of the things listed above with you and do things as a group, even though that may be challenging for you as introverts.  Above all, cultivate your relationship with God in addition to Bible study, prayer, and church attendance.  Know that God is always with you, He knows everything about you, He loves you completely, and you can trust Him completely (Psalm 139).  Fall in love with God, and Satan won’t be able to draw you away (James 4: 7-8).

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Monday, May 13, 2013

Unsure about Relationship Because Boyfriend Focuses on Business Matters

Dear Aunt Dara,
I met a wonderful Christian man online.  We have been talking 4 months.  We live in different states but talk by phone daily and he has come to visit me once.  We plan to see each other again in July.  We were born exactly one day apart the same year, so sometimes I feel I am talking to my twin.  We get along great.  We inspire each other and he has all the qualities I want in a man.

Here is the issue: We have begun to get involved in a couple of businesses together and all he seems to want to talk about is business and making money.  I love the friendship we are building, but I'm not sure if he is still romantically interested.  I seem to be the only one to change the subject, and I noticed I am the one initiating our getting together.  I invited him see me both times.  When I asked him last week when I would see him again, he said he was "waiting for an invitation."  I initiate all of our dates on Skype.  I feel I am chasing him and did not realize it until now.  He always responds with enthusiasm when I suggest getting together, but I think I have gone too far.  I need to know his real intentions toward me and the future and cannot seem to find the words.  Why is it so hard? 

Needing Help for a Long-Distance Christian Romance 

Dear Long Distance Romance, 

I think that it is hard for you to find the right words to see if he is still romantically interested in you because you have hopes that he is, but fear that he may not be. When reading your letter, it is difficult to get a feel of your relationship. Is it a romantic relationship, a friendship, a business partnership, or some combination of those three? Women usually feel more comfortable talking about relationships than do men. Perhaps a non-threatening way to approach the topic is to ask, "What is your vision for our future?" If his answer focuses on the business relationship, that should tell you something.

I hope this helps.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Difficulty Forgetting Boyfriend’s Past Sexual Behavior

Dear Aunt Dara,  

Let me just start off by explaining that I have a very strong Christian faith and have firm morals that I stick to and always have stuck to.  What I mean by that is I believe in abstinence, and I am pure and intend to stay that way until marriage.  My boyfriend is also a godly man and wants to wait to have sex until marriage.  However, just a few months ago before he and I were together, he lost his virginity to a woman he wasn't even dating, and before that he lived a life full of oral sex and hanging around slutty women.

His past has just come up in our relationship and it really bothers and disturbs me that he lived that type of lifestyle, and especially since it was so recent.  I am so bothered by this that I will cry about it for hours and it breaks my heart to know that if he and I were to get married, he would always be my first and my only, but I would always be the last on the list for him.

His past isn't something that he thinks is not a big deal and just brushes off his shoulder.  He very much regrets losing his virginity and it kills him to see how hurt I am over it all.  It helps me that he at least regrets those decisions and has now developed a good set of morals and a closer relationship with God after going through that and hating himself for it, but it still does not erase his past which is what I wish could happen.  I know that this life of his is in the past and people say to never judge a person based on their past, but it was so recent and I just cannot bring myself to approve of it and overcome it at the moment.  One day I will feel so in love with this man and want to marry him, and then the next day I will think about this and feel that I don't want this in a husband.

What do you suggest I do to try to overcome this?  If it bothers me this badly, do I break up with him although I’m already invested in our relationship?  Or are there steps that I, or we, can take to help me move past this?  Any help would be very much appreciated!

In Love with the Un-pure

Dear In Love with the Un-pure, 

Several things stood out to me as I read your letter multiple times.  You said that your boyfriend is “a godly man who wants to wait to have sex until marriage.”  You said that he “lived a life full of oral sex” and then he “lost his virginity to a woman he wasn’t even dating” and he “very much regrets losing his virginity.”  You said, “It kills him to see how hurt I am over it,” and twice you said, “It was so recent.”  Additionally, you said that you cannot bring yourself to approve of it. 
First of all, one should never approve of sinful behavior!  Furthermore, God does not distinguish which types of sexual activity constitute fornication.  Oral sex is still sex.  He lost his virginity long before his actions led to penetration with the other woman.  You indicate that he regrets the incident involving penetration, but does he regret having lived a life full of oral sex?  Furthermore, does he regret his actions because he knows they were sins against God, or does he regret his actions because it kills him to see how hurt you are over it all?  To put it plainly and simply, godly men do not live a lifestyle full of sinful actions that displease God.  You say that he now has “developed a good set of morals and a closer relationship with God,” and that may be true, but only time can tell.  However, you should not automatically assume that if you marry him you will be his next and his last, no matter what he promises you.   

At the heart of your concerns is not how to put this behind, but rather how you can go forward with this man.  You are correct in being concerned that “it was so recent,” because it was just a few months ago and you have only been together for a short time.  True repentance is evident by consistency over time.  Give this relationship several more months to observe his behavior for evidence that he truly has become a godly man.  Consider, too, that if a man wants to win a woman’s heart, he can say and do anything that he believes she wants to hear.  Then after he thinks that the woman is committed to him, he will stop trying to woo and impress her and will let his true self come out.  (Women can do the same thing when they are trying to win a man’s heart.)  That is why so many new marriages fail because people have rushed into marriage before they have had time to get to know the real person behind the charming persona.  Then they wake up some morning and think, “Where is the person I married?  He changed!”  To prevent that, it’s best not to marry anyone until you have been together for at least a year.  If, after a year, he has demonstrated godly morals and character, if he has become the kind of man that you would feel comfortable having as a husband and father for your children, then it will be much easier to forget his past and to trust him when he promises that he will always be faithful to you.

Finally, you are crying a lot because you are grieving the loss of your dream to have a husband who is sexually pure.  Remember that the Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”
(II Corinthians 5:17).  The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, just as if it never happened.  It is possible to have a good marriage with someone who has an impure past, but has repented of his sin and is living a life pleasing to God.  However, don’t rush into anything until your boyfriend has proved the sincerity of his repentance and has earned your trust. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sexual Temptation is Becoming Too Great

Dear Aunt Dara,  

Short story: How do my boyfriend/soon-to-be fiancé and I quell our increasing desire for each other, at least until we're married?

Long story: I am 18.  I have been with my boyfriend since junior high, we are both Christians, and we really strive to have a God-centered relationship.  We occasionally study the Bible together or pray together when life problems arise, and we're very open about our faith between the two of us.  We're so lucky to have each other.  We met at church, though we're in the middle of church switching right now so we don't have anyone to talk to about this.  After our freshman year of college is over, we're getting married (and continuing college of course—we both want a Ph.D.).  It's pretty much agreed upon among the family, and all we have to do is stage a proposal (of course it's no surprise, after pretty much growing up together all these years).  But that is a little over a year away, and our desire for intimacy with each other is getting a bit out of hand.  Of course, we would never even consider premarital sex, but the wait is about to kill us.  It really just intensified this last year, and we seriously have no idea what to do about it.  Every time we are together it's a struggle to keep our boundaries, which we've even relaxed over the years.  (At this point, we're not going to freak out if we're too close to each other or if kissing might involve a little tongue. Seriously.)  We just really want to be close to each other, but we can't.  We find ourselves thinking about sex with the other person WAY MORE THAN WE SHOULD, and way more than we ever have.  At one time or another we've even both tried porn (and left very disturbed, guilty, and disappointed, because obviously simple sexual gratification isn't what we're looking for).  It's like the years have worn on our will and the threads are slowly snapping one by one.  We've already had two or three "incidents,” and neither of us have ever considered ourselves lusty or sexually charged people, even him (and he's a guy)!  We're both miserable about it all.  I really love him and he really loves me, so we really want to respect each other.  We both really love God, so we really want to do what is right, but it's getting to the point that sitting in the same room with him is like sitting in the same room with a giant plate of spaghetti after having not eaten for two days, and I imagine he would describe similar or worse feelings.  Help! 

High School Sweetheart 

Dear High School Sweetheart,

I wish I had the answer for taking away the sexual desire that you and your boyfriend have for each other, but I do not.  God created us as humans and sexual desires are a part of His plan for us as humans.  However, we need to control our sexual desires and use them as God intended.  I know that you are aware of God's will in this regard and want to remain pure until marriage.  The temptations must be hard to bear, and there are no easy solutions. 

  1. You could move up the wedding date, but that is not a recommended solution.  You are young and have several years of college ahead of you.
  2. You could avoid seeing each other, but that might not be desirable or practical. 
  3. You could avoid being alone with him, but that is probably not what either of you would want.
It appears as if your desire for each other has surpassed your desire for God.  The closer you are to God, the easier it will be to manage temptations.  Jesus is the best example for handling temptation.  He knew the scriptures, He had a close relationship with God, and He spent a great amount of time in prayer.  All those things together helped Him to resist Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4: 1-11).  Therefore, here are my best suggestions: 

  1. Increase your Bible study time together (you might consider studying 1 Corinthians 6: 9-20).
  2. Pray together more often than just when life’s problems arise.  Make joint prayer a common thing.  Pray individually before you see each other.  If sexual desires begin flooding your mind when you are together, pray some more.
  3. If temptations begin to take over and you are afraid that you might go too far, you may have to physically separate yourselves until your passions cool.  
I hope these suggestions are helpful, and I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage Would Mean Having to Live Far Away from Her Parents

Dear Aunt Dara,

I really need some advice.  I have a unique situation that I haven't been able to get answers on.  I'm a 34-year-old woman who has been dating a wonderful man for two years.  I have waited a long time to meet someone like him and we have recently talked about getting married.  Before I met him, I joined the military and when I got out, I thought about moving closer to family (they are 1000 miles away on the East coast).  I met my boyfriend in the middle of this decision.  At that time, I prayed about it and decided that this was the right guy to date seriously.  My boyfriend has a young son that he wants to be around and cannot move anywhere for 11 years, which is understandable.  He says he wouldn't mind moving but needs to be close to his son until he graduates high school.  Now, he may not move to my hometown but anywhere we go where I could drive to see family would be great.  So I am thinking if we get married, I will be here for a while.  For the most part, I don't think of home a lot, but I'm usually sad when I go to visit my family and have to leave them.  At my age, I feel as if I shouldn't get homesick.  I am not dependent on my family but we are very close.

My question is, should I stay here with him or move back?  If I were married, there would be no question where I should be, but for right now we are just dating.  I want to be with him, but I think about my parents.  I know I need to live my life, but I think about how my parents are in their 60's and 70's and would love to have me around.  They don't have much money and visit when they can, which is on average once every three to four years.  I visit two times a year, so as long as I’m saving money, I can get back to see them.  Seeing them for a week or two twice a year just doesn’t seem to be enough to cure my homesickness, and if we get married, I could be seeing them less than that.  One day I’m happy to be here with my boyfriend, and the next day I miss my family.  People I have gotten advice from tell me getting married means to leave my mother and father, and then some say to me, “How could you just leave your aging parents?”  I feel torn.  I don't know if I am struggling with this because I will be a step-mother and a wife all at the same time, or because I know I will have to be far from family, possibly for good.  It's just a lot of change.  Maybe I just need to grow up, but I'm struggling with it all.  I have prayed about it and have no idea what God wants me to do.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks. 

Homesick and in Love 

Dear Homesick, 

It’s understandable that you feel torn between wanting to live closer to your parents and yet wanting to be with your boyfriend (and possible future husband) who needs to live closer to his family.  The people who try to advise you on what you should do mean well, but they do not know what is right and best for you, so don’t let their comments make you feel guilty.  You are wise in seeking God’s will in this matter, and I pray that you receive His answer soon.  Here are some things to consider when you pray for guidance: 

Are you sure that God wants you to marry this man?  If so, when does God want you to marry him?  I think that this needs to be settled first, because the question of where to live seems to hinge on whether you marry him.  If you decide to marry, your priority should be to your husband.  There will be times when you will feel torn between wanting to be nearer to your aging parents and needing to maintain your marriage and the family that you are making with him.  Are you prepared to place your husband first, even if that could mean that you may not be able to do everything for your parents that you would like to do? 

If you decide to put your parents first rather than marrying, consider that God did not intend for the parent-child relationship to be the primary focus when children become adults.  That is why He instituted marriage and it is in our best interest to establish our own families, separate from our parents (Genesis 2: 18-25).  Also, you will likely live for decades after your parents have passed on.  It’s much easier to cope with the loss of your parents if you have a loving, supportive spouse (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12).

I don’t think there is anything unusual about your homesickness.  You love your parents and you miss them.  That is why you become sad when you visit them and then have to leave.  Those feelings will never change, no matter how old you are.  Your parents most likely feel sad when your visits are over, and they probably wish you were living closer to them.  They love you and they miss you.  However, most parents want whatever is best for their children, even if it means that they must live 500, 1000, 2000 or more miles apart.  Parents want their children to be well and happy, regardless of how far apart they are or how often they get to see them.  Your parents want you to be happy, so if you have a husband who loves you, who treats you well, and you are happy living with him, your parents will adjust to your living far away.   

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Family Members Did Not Receive Notice About Upcoming Wedding

Dear Aunt Dara,

I recently received an e-mailed invitation to "save the date" for my male cousin's second marriage ceremony.  This was followed shortly by a hard copy of the same invitation in the mail.  The concern I have is that neither of my parents received either the electronic version or mailed version of the "save the date" card (I live with my parents to help mom with her health needs).  My cousin and his fiancé came to our house for Thanksgiving this year and seemed to enjoy themselves.  There doesn't seem to be any reason they would exclude my parents intentionally, except I do know that they have very different political opinions, but these are rarely discussed.  Also, I do know that relations have been strained at times between my cousin and his father and other members of his immediate family. 

I really don't know whether to:

A. Assume that my cousin and/or his fiancé intended for me to share the information with my parents.  In this case I would just share the information with my parents and suggest that they prepare to attend.  But then if I'm wrong and they don't receive a wedding invitation, that could make matters worse.

B. Assume that they accidentally misplaced my parents e-mail address and/or card.  In this case, should I gently bring it to their attention somehow?

C. Assume that they intentionally did not send the card to my parents.  In this case, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable attending the wedding, depending on the reason.

I'm afraid to just wait and see if my parents receive a wedding invitation.  It is a long distance trip and we would all need to begin saving and making arrangements very soon.  I'm hoping that this is just some kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding, and being the one who received the card, I feel very uncomfortable not knowing how to handle the situation.

Confused Cousin

Dear Confused Cousin,

I can see how you would be confused because the situation is unclear.  Since there doesn't seem to be any reason they would intentionally not  invite your parents, perhaps they want a small wedding and have decided to limit their wedding guests due to the cost involved in having several guests. Or possibly your cousin did intend to invite your parents and the invitation hasn't come yet for the reasons that you suggest. The only thing that is clear, however, is that you don't know the reason your parents have not been invited yet. You should not assume anything. The best thing to do is to send your cousin a note informing him that your parents have not received an invitation yet, and ask if they plan to invite your parents to the wedding. That should help to clear the confusion.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Concerned that Depression Might Return

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have a terrible choice to make that seems to have no good solutions!  I hope you can help me.  About three years ago I was feeling very depressed and all I wanted to do was disappear from my church and social life.  I was feeling it might help to get involved in my church choir and joined.  I have been so thankful since!  It has helped lift my depression, and I found that unlike most things, your voice improves in middle age!  With the encouragement of the choir master, I began to get solo parts and a lot of attention.  I was never very comfortable with the attention, but I also realized vanity began to become a problem.  I'm sure I'm as vain as the next woman in most parts of my life, not that I'm excusing that, but I found myself really ashamed in this.  In singing praise to God, at times I've been sinfully singing "Me, me, me, me, me!"  I've prayed about this and thought I could get through this by praying for forgiveness and wisdom, keeping the right frame of mind, and loving my friends in the choir who have helped me as much as the singing has.

Just when I thought I had all of this under control, along came another problem that has tested me.  An assistant pastor and his wife came to our church and they have asked that she should sing all the solo parts.  She is very aggressive, even telling the choir master that I personally really have no interest in choir (I come every week, even when I don't feel up to it), that I make all sorts of technical mistakes (I sing front and center not three feet from him and he would correct me if I did), and bad mouths me to the other choir members.  They let me know these things, since she's not much nicer to others in the choir and transparent in her envy of me.  I promise I have tried to love this person and incorporate her into our choir, even including her in a special part this week, but she goes her own way with her own timing and notes to make her part more noticeable and it falls apart.  She gestures broadly while singing to draw attention to herself and makes faces for the same purpose.  When I gently mentioned to her that I had a hard time keeping time with her and could we work on it between services, I practically saw steam come out her ears!  She refused, and I let it go.  But at the second service her husband, who sits in the front row while we sing, was glaring at me solidly through the song!  I'm not sure what she said to him during the break but I know it must have been awful!

I can tell she's a very unhappy person and I'm trying to be kind and patient, but she is running me over in a very personal way.  Telling lies about me to people who know me and like me isn't getting her very far, thankfully, but I don't know everybody.  Actually it doesn't concern me as much that she is using her position as the pastor's wife to ingratiate herself to the people she feels matter and intimidating others to put herself ahead.  Unfair as that may be, God is who hears me whether it is in the front row, the back row, the lobby or down the street!  The personal attacks hurt most and I'm still pretty vulnerable from the depression and self questioning about my own struggles with vanity.  I really feel tested and the terrible choice I mentioned is whether to quit choir before the whole thing sends me into more depression or to stay and fight my way emotionally through the pain and self doubt.  So far I think I've taken the high road and prayed through it.  I know God gave me this gift of a voice and I should use it, but I'm not sure I'm strong enough for this fight either.

Thank you for your consideration,

Choir Conundrum

Dear Choir Member, 

Being in the choir has helped to alleviate your depression because it gives you a purpose and a way to serve God while uplifting others.  You have been given a gift from God and you are using it.  Singing brings you joy, as it should.  I believe that when Christians sing praise to God, the Holy Spirit within us is singing also, just as the Spirit helps us with our prayers.  The joy that you feel when you sing is coming from the Holy Spirit, and the reason that your singing is improving is because the Holy Spirit is working through you.  However, singing well brings praise from others, which is inevitable.  You may feel uncomfortable with praise and attention that you are receiving, but feeling joy in singing, knowing that you are singing well, and receiving praise and recognition from others are not evidence that you have a problem with vanity.  Here are some things to consider in determining if you are singing for the right reasons or if you are doing it for the attention that you receive:

  1. If you don’t receive any compliments after you sing, do you worry that you didn’t do a good job?
  2. Are you happy to just be another member in the choir and let others sing solos, even if they are not as good a singer as you?
  3. Do you criticize other singers because you believe you could have sung the song better than they did?
  4. Do you need to be up front and center in the choir, or are you just as happy to be in the back?
Regarding the situation with the assistant pastor’s wife, it could be that God has placed this woman in the choir as a test to see how you will handle it (you acknowledged that you feel tested), thus helping you to overcome any vanity that you may have.  I know that it can be frustrating to sing with someone who is less talented or less skilled as a singer than you are.  The assistant pastor’s wife is aware that her singing is inferior to yours, and that is why she is insistent that she do the solos and that she is heard above others.  Her envy of you is the reason she is saying unkind and untrue things about you, and you recognize that.  Do not allow her negativity to bring you down, even though she is saying hurtful things and criticizing you.  God knows the truth.  Those who know you also know the truth.  Even those who don’t know you will have respect for you if you overlook her unjust criticism and continue to do what is right.  Please study Colossians 3: 12-17 as your guide in this situation.

I suggest that you continue in the choir, because the depression is highly likely to return if you suppress the gift that God has given you.  I also suggest that you allow the choir master to choose who does the solos and make it clear to him that you are willing for the assistant pastor’s wife to do all of them.  I also suggest that you avoid doing any duets or other special singing with the assistant pastor’s wife, because she will likely do anything to try to outshine you.  To deal with the pain and self-doubt that you are feeling, I suggest that you read a few chapters of Psalms each day and pray for God’s peace to permeate your heart and your life, stop trying to judge yourself, continue to pray for God to bless the assistant pastor’s wife, and treat her with kindness.  Finally, whenever you sing, forget everything except God’s love and sing with joy and gratitude.  Nothing else matters—not what others say about you, not what others think about you, whether good or bad, and not even your own self-doubts.  All that matters is that God is using your voice as His instrument to praise Him and bless others.   

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marriage would be an Unequal Yoke

Dear Aunt Dara, 

I hope you can maybe help with a question.  I think I’m grasping at straws, but here goes.  I’m a 48-yr-old woman who has been in a relationship with my partner (unbeliever) 5 years now.  I got saved in July.  I thought maybe it wouldn’t make a difference to us since I’d been with him when I met the Lord and we could just get married, and we would be okay as long as he didn’t hinder my walk with the Lord.  But the Lord has put this on my heart and I’ve asked for answers, and what I’m getting is the marriage would be wrong, the unequal yoke, etc.  I have told him I don’t think I can be with him any longer due to what I’m reading in the Bible, but he doesn’t understand and my heart is broken because I love him.  Also I feel terrible guilt for breaking his heart.  I’m hoping and praying all the time.  Please help. 

God bless,
Broken Hearted

Dear Broken Hearted,

What exactly does “in a relationship with a partner” mean?  Are you living together?  Are you having sexual relations with each other?

Giving your life to Jesus will always involve making a difference in your life.  No relationship can be the same, because you are not the same (I Corinthians 6:18-20, 
II Corinthians 5:17).  A Christian wife’s walk with the Lord will always be hindered by an unbelieving husband.  That does not mean that a woman cannot live a Christian life if her husband is an unbeliever—it just means that her service to the Lord will be limited due to being pulled in two directions (trying to do what God wants her to do, yet trying to be submissive to an unbelieving husband who likely will not be fully supportive of her service to God.)  However, rather than concentrating on marriage as the solution to your current situation and questioning if it would be okay to marry an unbeliever, perhaps you should be focusing on converting your partner to Christ.  After all, you love him.  Surely, you want him to be saved.  To convert him to Christ, you must set an example of Christ-like behavior.  That means repenting of any sins that you may be practicing and living your life according to God’s word.  This means that if you are having sexual relations with him, you must stop.  Explain to him that you can no longer have sex outside of marriage because it is sin.  But do this carefully so that he recognizes that you are rejecting a sinful lifestyle, but not rejecting him.  He may not understand at first, but as you continue to live a pure life, he may come to realize that your faith is genuine.  However, if he does not  support your decision to live a pure life, or if he demands that you make a choice between him and the Lord, then trust that God has a good plan for your life, whether it includes this man or not.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Managing Awkward Moments After a Friendship Breaks Down

Part One: 

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am struggling with what to do regarding a friendship.

About a year ago, I went to her because she had hurt me and I wanted to talk about it.  She did not think that she had done anything wrong and started to say all sorts of cruel and unkind things to me.  I reacted and we both ended up saying some very unkind and mean things to each other. 

Two days later, she wrote an email to my husband complaining about me, but accidentally sent it to me.  I looked at this as a sign to start the reconciliation process, by taking responsibility for my part in the argument.  I told her that I was sorry for what I had said and knew that it was wrong.  She wrote back telling me how hurt she was and all that is wrong with me.  I wrote again and suggested that we get together to talk.  She agreed to meet.  I suggested a meeting place, but by now I was wondering if she would ever admit her part in the argument, so I went into more detail of some of my character flaws and areas where I was asking God to help me grow.  I admitted that these flaws were what caused me to lash out at her and asked her forgiveness.  I also wrote that I wanted to continue the relationship but could only see this happening if we both acknowledged the areas in which we hurt each other. 

She wrote back saying that she appreciated my email, but at no point did she mention her part in the argument.  We met and the first thing she said to me was I was late, when I was not.  I had been waiting at the appointed place and time.  She came 20 minutes late and said that she didn’t see me.  She then started to ask me about my life,( how is your son, how is your husband, are you going on vacation?....those kind of questions).  But she didn’t mention the argument.  Since I had already stated where I had gone wrong and asked forgiveness in an email, I didn’t see any reason for hashing it over again and was waiting for her to admit where she had hurt me.  After an hour of us talking she showed no signs of talking about our relationship.  So I said, “Are we alright?” She said, “Yes.”  I didn’t see the point of forcing her to admit her faults or ask for an apology when she clearly had not given it much thought.  So we said our good-byes and parted very amicably.  I decided at that point to forgive and learn from it.  But I also did not see how I could continue in the relationship, as I felt it would be unhealthy for me.  I discontinued contact and so did she. 

A year has gone by and we have not spoken.  Today, we ran into each other and she was very friendly and wanted to get together.  I do not see how I can have her as a friend when I still feel there is unfinished business between us.  If I raise the issue with her, I don’t think that she will want to admit to any wrong on her part.  I am afraid also if I mention it that it will just get her angry and I will expose myself to more of her hurtful words. 

What should I do?
A Friend

Dear Friend,

Few people can hurt us as much as a friend who is not supportive of our feelings.  I am sorry that it seems as if your friend is not being sensitive to your needs and is blaming you for the problems in your relationship.  She has hurt you over and over, and appears to have no remorse for doing so.  Additionally, sending a negative e-mail to your husband could have caused problems for your marriage.  I would like to commend you for going to her directly about the things that she said that hurt you and for acknowledging your part in hurting her and asking for her forgiveness.  That is all that you could have done to repair this relationship.  However, when you have done all that you can do, that is all that you can do.  It is no longer up to you to maintain the relationship.  That she has not contacted you for a year is a revealing sign that maintaining a friendship with you is a low priority for her.  Keep in mind that whenever somebody says, “Let’s get together sometime,” they often do not really mean it.  That’s just something polite to say when you haven’t seen someone for a long time. 

You did well in deciding to forgive her and to consider this a learning experience.  You are showing wisdom in backing off from the relationship and being hesitant to renew a friendship with someone who shows no remorse for hurting you multiple times and shows no evidence of repentance.  Do not expect her to ever acknowledge her part in the problems between the two of you.  Perhaps someday she will be willing to apologize to you, but likely she may not.  I would suggest that you let go of the past, keep praying for her, but keep your contact with her minimal and conversations with her on a superficial level. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Part Two:

Dear Aunt Dara,

Thank you very much for your response.  You confirmed to me that I have taken the right course in discontinuing the friendship.

Running into her after a year has stirred up some anxiety and I was wondering what to say if she called or kept asking to get together.  I know you said that she may have just said that to be polite, but she is a very forceful person and she did ask us to sit and have coffee with them when we ran into them.  I made up an excuse and said that we had another commitment and had to get home.  May I please ask you for your opinion on what to say if she does ask or suggests again to get together?

She and her husband have started to come to our church and I expect that we will run into each other again.  Do I just make up excuses, ignore her suggestions to get together, or tell her why I don't think that a friendship with her will work?  If I make up excuses or ignore her suggestions, I feel dishonest, but if I tell her the reason that I don't think the friendship will work when she has shown no regard for my feelings, I think she will deny that she has done anything wrong and I will open up myself to an onslaught of insults.  The reason I think that she will do this is because this has been her pattern in the past and this is how she treats her own husband.

Also we very much like her husband.  He and my husband got along very well and we enjoyed them as a couple.  But now that this has happened with us gals, everything has gone by the wayside.  My husband has not contacted her husband out of respect for me, but when we saw them the other day, her husband said to my husband that he missed us.  I feel so badly about all of this.  Her inability to see her part in the breakdown of the relationship has caused us all to hurt and feel sad about not getting together.  I told my husband that if he still wanted to maintain contact with her husband that it would be okay with me.  But really, I think this will open up some stress, as the natural course will be for us to eventually get together as a couple or when the men are together, she may want to get together for a walk or coffee as we use to do in the past.

I am sorry for all these questions.  I really would appreciate your help in giving me a good verbal response to her that would end her requests and keep me safe.  I don't want to stop going to our church in anticipation of running into her again.  It is a very good church, but the thought of running into her has created a lot of anxiety in me.

Thank you for your kindness and understanding towards me and my situation.
A Friend

Dear Friend,

I can appreciate how uncomfortable this situation must be for all of you, especially since they are now attending your church and future contact with them is inevitable.  You are doing well in letting your husband know that you are okay with his continuing a friendship with her husband, but you should not feel pressured into renewing your friendship with her as a result.  Let your husband know that you do not want to get together with them as a couple, and he should support you in that decision and avoid any situation that would place the four of you together.

If she invites you to get together with her again, do not make up an excuse.  Just decline graciously without giving any reason.  Here are some suggestions for how to respond:

"Thanks, but not today."
"No thank you, but thanks for the invitation."
"It's kind of you to ask, but I'll have to decline."

If she persists in asking, or starts asking you why you are declining the invitation, say, "I love you as a sister in Christ, but we have grown apart and I am not interested in renewing our friendship at this time."  If she questions why, just say, "I have good reasons, but they are personal."  If she keeps trying to get you to explain, use the broken record technique. (Keep repeating, "I have good reasons, and they are personal.”) Don't let her pressure you into divulging the reasons.  You have already addressed the reasons with her, and
bringing it up again will serve no good purpose.  It would just give her something to argue with you about and will open up the opportunity for her to further attack you.

Keep praying for her!

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Dear Aunt Dara,

WOW!  Thank you so much!  The responses that you suggested are perfect and I am very comfortable with all of them.  Thank you very much for your support, in all of this.  It has really helped me and I no longer feel anxious.
God bless you!

Dear Friend,
You’re welcome.  Glad I could help.  God bless you and your husband.
Aunt Dara