Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships

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You enter into romantic dating relationships with the best of intentions and high hopes, but often, those relationships that you hoped would work out end, and you are left with feelings of regret, obsessive thoughts about the other person, and emotional baggage. In this age of serial dating, you can be married or in a dating relationship and still feel emotional ties to people from the past.

Is there a way to break soul ties from a past romantic relationship so that you can sever the thoughts and feelings holding you captive and fully embrace your current relationship or a relationship in the future?

The answer is yes. You can break free of unhealthy soul ties and get over past romantic relationships. However, to do so, you must understand what soul ties are and how they formed in the first place. God’s desire is for you to live free of emotional baggage and break negative ties with the past, but there are some steps you need to walk through in order to get free.

What are soul ties?

Soul ties are deep emotional connections with other people. Soul ties can form in friendships or romantic relationships. In fact, healthy soul ties are what God intended for us in friendships, family relationships, and the marriage relationship. The Bible doesn’t use the term “soul tie” but does speak of being connected on a soul level with others in a positive way — with friends, our spouse, family members and fellow believers (Ephesians 5:31; 1 Samuel 18:1). However, unhealthy soul ties can form in romantic relationships when you allow a person to rise to an unhealthy status in your life, or you are sexually involved with a person outside of the confines of marriage. (There are other reasons for unhealthy soul ties as well, but I will just focus on these two reasons in this article.)

God created sex for your enjoyment and pleasure, but He set sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage to protect you. When two people are physically intimate in a relationship outside of marriage, a deep soul connection is created that exists long after the relationship is over. Therefore, even if you try to move past a break-up with a person that you were physically intimate with, you won’t be able to without taking some key steps to sever the soul tie.

In addition, soul ties can form in romantic relationships even if a sexual relationship doesn’t occur. One way this can happen is by elevating a person to an unhealthy position in one’s life. Even as a Christ follower, another person can become a savior. Perhaps if you were lonely, you looked to another person to fulfill you in a way that only God can. When that relationship ends, even if the person didn’t treat you well or wasn’t right for you, you may still fantasize about getting back together with this person. Perhaps you have faced rejection in previous relationships so you latch onto a new relationship to help you feel good about yourself.

Whatever the case, here are a few steps you can take in order to be free of the emotional bondage an unhealthy romantic soul tie creates:

1. Repent and confess wrongdoing to God.

If you haven’t done so, confess your sexual sin or unhealthy obsession about a person to God and ask Him for forgiveness. Even if the relationship happened long ago, if you have never confessed to Him your sin, you can do so understanding that He grants full forgiveness for your wrongdoing the second you ask. If there are many people that you have been sexually involved with, go down the list and ask forgiveness for the wrongdoing in each relationship. If you have bitterness or unforgiveness, confess that to God and ask Him to help you forgive the other person. You may feel ashamed to go to God with your confession because you know that your actions departed from His Word. However, He already knows what you have done and repentance puts you in right relationship with Him and frees you of the guilt and shame you have been carrying.

Many people have a negative connotation of repentance, but repentance means simply to change one’s mind and go a different way. If you are currently involved in a relationship that has veered outside of the boundaries of God’s design, you can repent and go a new way by confessing your wrong and deciding to allow God’s Word and will to dictate your actions in that relationship. Confession means simply coming into agreement with God on the issue. So after you repent, allow God to help you draw boundaries so that you can be in alignment with His Word.

2. Turn to God.

After the process of repentance, continue to turn to God for healing and guidance. Severing romantic soul ties, even those forged a long time ago, can be a painful process. The reason that you most likely formed the soul tie to begin with was because the person or relationship provided something for you that you thought you needed. Even if you were not treated well in the relationship, breaking your soul connection with the person may be initially traumatic. You may have always hoped that you would get back together with that person. Or, perhaps if you are currently in a relationship that is unhealthy, you may not want to terminate the relationship because of the comfort and companionship the person provides.

Because of these reasons, you may go through a period of grieving for the relationship or not feel the effects of healing immediately after breaking the soul tie. You may feel empty and despondent. However, know that while breaking unhealthy soul ties in the short-term may be difficult, you will reach a place in the long-run where you feel lightened from your emotional baggage. In the process of healing, God needs to be the One you turn to in your pain. Otherwise, you will automatically turn to another person or thing to fill the void that you experience after your repentance.

3. Apologize for your wrongdoing to the other person.

Certainly, there are scenarios where you repent of an unhealthy soul tie and move on with your life. End of story. However, in some cases, there may be another component to the process of breaking free of negative soul ties. You might feel bitterness or anger against the other person for wrongdoing they have done to you or the way the relationship ended. In those cases, you need to apologize to the person for any wrongdoing you have done in your anger against them. The Holy Spirit will help identify the right course of action, but have you talked about the person maliciously behind their back? Have you hurled angry words in their direction? Have you retaliated in wrong ways in your place of hurt? If so, the Holy Spirit may prompt you to apologize to the individual for the wrongdoing.

In addition, another step I know was necessary in my own journey was to apologize to the other person for my part in the sexual sin. I know this is not going to be a popular step, and I have read many books and advice blogs on the subject that simply advocate confession (without apology to the other person for our part in the sexual sin). However, the Bible urges us not to be a temptation and stumbling block to another (Luke 17:1-4). If we tempt a person into sin or participate with them in sin (as we do when we are sexually involved with others outside of marriage), we should apologize to them for our wrongdoing in the matter.

Clearly, you need to use caution in this endeavor. I would advise keeping contact minimal and asking another person to keep you accountable in the process. A letter in most cases is most likely better than a meeting or phone call. You may have feelings re-ignited if you come into contact with an old flame, and it is advisable to simply state what needs to be stated and then no longer be in contact with the person.

I encourage you to pray about the right step for you in your circumstance. Obviously, certain scenarios exist where this step is not advisable, particularly in certain abusive relationships. If possible, seek out a Christian counselor or wise pastor to counsel you through your situation.

4. Let the past be in the past.

Sometimes, unhealthy soul ties can form with family members or friends for reasons not mentioned here (such as manipulation and control), and it’s possible to cut the unhealthy ties and set boundaries with the person and still maintain the relationship.

However, in terms of past romantic relationships, it’s best not to have contact with the other person once the unhealthy soul tie is broken. Continued meetings or contact with the other person will make it difficult for you to heal and move on. You may have to take some extreme measures such as discarding gifts or letters that the other person gave you, unfriending the person on Facebook, or requesting a transfer to another department. Sometimes the act of cutting an unhealthy soul tie in your life means making adjustments and setting boundaries so that you are not constantly reminded of the person.

You may feel like these acts are unloving, but truly, a past romantic interest that is interrupting your ability to be present with your spouse, fully engage in the relationships in your life at the moment, or grow in your relationship with God is not someone that you need in your life.

Conclusion:

Unhealthy soul ties in romantic relationships can form when we walk outside of God’s plan for relationships and sex or elevate a person to an unhealthy place in our lives. Thankfully we have a God who is in the process of restoration. Even if you have made many mistakes in your past and have a string of past relationships that are tying you down, there is freedom for you.

Unhealthy soul ties can be broken when we apply the remedy of repentance given to us in Scripture and take steps to turn from unhealthy relationships and find healing through Christ.                                                                                                                      `

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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When Jesus Asks You to Go Into a Storm

When Jesus Asks You to Go Into A Storm

A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon that dug into the marrow of my soul. The sermon was about the storms of life that come up suddenly — like sudden squalls on a calm lake.

The sermon made an impression on me not only because it was a compelling talk and gave a slightly different take on the story of the disciples on the sea, but because it touched off a little warning signal in my spirit. I felt a whisper all around me. Something is coming.

Though I am a firm advocate of looking for good and not projecting bad in the future, I also know that sometimes God warns us of things to come. I felt that He was giving me an oh-so-subtle heads up. I buckled down in prayer. I braced myself in spirit for the phone call, the conflict, the problem to emerge.

But, as so often happens with God, I got the slow dawning realization that perhaps the storm was one that I was going to have to walk into on my accord. A hurricane wasn’t necessarily going to brew up outside my control and leave me in the middle without a choice (as has often happened). I was going to have to choose to walk into it and trust Him to meet me in it and get me through it.

As I have shared many times on my blog, I have been through some healing these past few years — and the end result had been peace. I had set boundaries in relationships that had never been set before. I had made amends and apologies. I had experienced great gains in sifting through emotional baggage and negative unresolved emotions that had built up.

But in a way that is His own, God showed me that I was in danger of falling back into some of my old people-pleasing patterns. I had backed away from some confrontations, had remained silent when I should have spoken up. God was prompting me not to lose the lessons He had taught me, but to keep walking head-long into difficult conversations and initiate tough calls as He led me.

To stop hiding and being cowardly about facing people. To walk in the power of His Holy Spirit and not backtrack into avoidance and escapism when He directed me to places that were difficult.

Jesus Directs His Disciples Into a Storm

As the pastor pointed out in the sermon on the disciples, in John 6:16-21 Jesus directed the disciples onto the lake knowing that there was going to be a storm:

When evening came, his disciples went down into the sea, got into the boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

What is interesting to note here is that Jesus sent the disciples into the boat without Him. He left to go and pray. We must know that there are some decisions we will have to make. He will direct us — but we ourselves are the ones who must choose to walk in that way. He won’t force us.

And — even when we do our duty and listen to Christ’s command, we will find ourselves in adverse circumstances, afraid. Many of us assume that doing the will of God will lead us away from difficulty rather than towards it. But as we see in this Scripture, the disciples’ obedience led them straight into a squall.

However, just at the right moment, when the storm was reaching a fever pitch and tossing the disciples about — Jesus came to them, walking on the water, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” (v. 20).

As commentator Matthew Henry notes, Jesus walking on the water revealed His complete command over the situation. He walks above our trouble and circumstances and can teach us to do the same. However, as the accounts in Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49 relate, the disciples were afraid when they first saw Jesus because they didn’t recognize Him at first. Jesus, to them, looked like some sort of apparition. In the darkness and the winds, they couldn’t make out His face.

And perhaps we don’t recognize Jesus in our circumstance at first either.

It was only when Jesus spoke that they recognized His voice and invited them into the boat. Again, just as they chose to go into the boat at His command, they also chose to welcome Him into their boat in the midst of the storm.

And it was only then that they “immediately” (as the passage says) reached the other side. Was Jesus being merciless, then, by sending them ahead of Him into the boat into the storm? No, not at all. Sometimes, the only way to get to the other side is through an incident than around it.

My self-protective tendencies make me want to always look for the easy way, the way where no one gets offended, no one gets upset and no one gets their feathers ruffled.

But that’s not always the way Jesus would have me go.

Did He send His disciples to die in the middle of the lake? Did He send His disciples to a place He couldn’t see or control?

No, He sent them into a storm that He would meet them in the center in, even though it looked, by all appearances, that He would be sitting this one out.

Is God Asking You to Walk Into a Storm?

Perhaps God is asking you to do something hard. Confess a wrong to someone else. Confront a friend about a sin. Set a boundary in a relationship where the other person has freely walked all over you for years. Say no to a situation that is tempting you to act in ways you know you shouldn’t.

But to do so may mean a storm. It may mean a loss of a relationship. It may mean people mocking you for your beliefs. And you tell God you don’t want to go. You want to stay on the shore.

I want to as well, friend. But I know I have to go. So the Holy Spirit and I have been sifting through relationships. I have been consulting Him about what to say, which direction to go. And one by one, as I seek Him and seek His Word, I am launching out in actions that will continue to provide the boundaries around me in relationships, that will help me navigate those in a healthy way with His strategies rather than my own.

Is it easy, friend? No, it’s not. His way never is.

But is it life-changing. Life infusing? Spirit-dependent living? Yes it is.

I urge you — take His invitation. Step out. Leave behind the safe dock and embrace the winds — because it is in the storm where He will meet you.

If you would like to join in for a chat about emotional healing and maintaining that healing after you’ve walked through it, I will be talking more about that as well as the inspiration for this post. You can subscribe for free to our live video chat this Monday, August 7 @ 9 p.m. EST, watch the replay, or leave a comment below.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted: Here’s Hope You Can Cling to

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_

When I was an unmarried college student, I got a job working at a retail store in the local mall.

People that I knew would frequently come through, but I was surprised one day to see a good looking young man approach me. I recognized him as the brother of a boy I had known in my middle school days.

He smiled at me and struck up a conversation. As he continued talking to me for more than a few minutes, I found his attention flattering but began to wonder why he was lingering around me for so long. Right around the time that I began to assume that he was being flirtatious with me, these words came out of his mouth: “So, tell me about her. Does she have a boyfriend?”

I immediately paused in my shirt folding and looked to see where he was gesturing. My gaze fell on the beautiful young high school student that had just joined our staff. She had long, straight brown hair and a bubbly smile.

I felt a jolt of unpleasantness course through my veins. Though I had no interest in this young man and did not desire to “hook up” with him, I was flattered by the idea that he might be talking to me because he thought I was interesting or attractive. However, his comment underlined the real reason he was acting so friendly in my presence.

The idea made me freeze a little because I had observed flocks of guys around this particular girl on a regular basis, and it was hard not to be feel terribly plain and unnoticed working beside her.

“She has a boyfriend,” I said very evenly as I finished the last of the shirts in my pile.

His face fell and within seconds he mumbled his goodbyes and quickly exited the store. I stood there feeling slightly used and annoyed. Could he not just chat with me a few moments because I grew up near his family, and I had gone to school with his brother? Why was his only intent to use me to get to this other girl?

Although this irritated feeling in this particular incident was one I was able to shrug off within a matter of moments, I suppose that the reason the irritation was there to begin with was because of something deep within me that this situation touched on. A fear that perhaps I didn’t have what other girls had to offer.

A longing to be noticed and admired — even by somebody’s brother whom I wasn’t even interested in.

Leah from the Bible: A Woman Insecure and Unwanted

When I was a young girl, I was familiar with the story of Leah and Rachel, and here was my honest thought concerning God’s placement of it in the Bible: it reinforced my belief that it was important to be more like Rachel than Leah. Males loved Rachels.

I had a few Rachels in my immediate realm who proved this point. They were pretty, popular, sought after. Enough said.

But I never considered that the story in the Bible wasn’t to make insecure girls feel even more insecure. God’s intention in placing it there was most likely to show overlooked-feeling girls such as myself how to find confidence and belonging.

Let’s look at Leah’s story in Genesis 29. Leah was given to Jacob when Jacob didn’t even want her. Rather than the sister he thought he was getting on his wedding night, he got Leah. And when he discovered that his trickster father-in-law had made the switch, he was angry and demanded that he have Rachel. And there was nothing Leah could do to change the situation she found herself in.

She didn’t have a choice when her father, Laban, chose her to dupe Jacob, and she couldn’t get out of a marriage she was bound by covenant into, even though it meant sharing her husband with a sister that was the favored one, the one that Jacob loved.

So, as blogger and Proverbs 31 contributor Lynn Cowell points out in a blog post, Leah did what any desperate woman would do, and she attempted to offer Jacob something that would make him love her. In her society, because a woman’s fertility was valued, she bore him sons. And with each son she birthed, the Bible says that Leah believed that the child would help Jacob feel attached to her. Three times, she did this!

It’s easy to look at poor Leah here and claim that we would never repeatedly engage in the same cycle of approval-seeking (when it clearly isn’t working), but that is exactly some of us have done a thousand times.

We continue to call the man who won’t commit to a serious relationship and make excuses when he never calls us. We continue to kill ourselves out-performing everyone at our job to prove to a hard-to-please male boss that we are a good employee. We think of ways we can dress better, do our hair differently, lose a few pounds to keep the affections of a husband who is distant and unaffectionate. And though our efforts don’t work, we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that if we just do [fill in the blank], we will finally win him.

Leah fell into this trap again and again. You can almost imagine her as she presented her newest newborn to her husband with eager expectation, but he did not waver in his love for Rachel. In fact, the irony is that Rachel was barren for many years when they were first married, but Jacob showed devotion and favoritism towards her even when she had difficulty conceiving.

Have you ever been there?

But as Cowell observes, there is a turning point in the story where Leah had a heart-change. She stopped looking to her husband, and she started looking to God for her love and fulfillment. In verse 35, after the birth of her fourth son, Leah said: “This time I will praise the Lord.” And then Leah stopped bearing children for a time.

Aren’t you just cheering for Leah here? She adjusted her focus to the One who created her.

However, her change of heart may have only been temporary. She began child-bearing again — it doesn’t expressly say that did this to try once again to gain her husband’s attention, but more out of competition with her sister.

Regardless of whether Leah changed her approval-seeking ways with her husband permanently or not, her heart-change (even if only temporary) did not change her circumstances. The Scriptures give no indication that her husband began to love her. In fact, it indicates that she remained unloved. When Jacob was afraid to meet his brother, Esau, later in the story, he sent Leah out in front. Rachel was safely positioned back with him.

But Leah’s best moment was when she found strength in a God who loved her and had a purpose for her when the world was unfair to her. It turns out that Leah was in the lineage of Jesus Christ! And, though the biblical account doesn’t tell us what happened between Jacob and Leah later in life, I’d like to think that perhaps Jacob grew to respect and perhaps even love this wife he initially didn’t want.

What we do know is that Leah outlived Rachel and was buried next to him (an honor not even Rachel had).

If You Feel Unwanted

I know if you are reading this and find yourself feeling left out and unloved like Leah, you might be wondering: Does this mean my circumstances will never change? I can’t answer that. I do know that God wants us to find meaningful connections in our relationships, and I believe that He can restore any relationship.

However, I also know that sometimes God doesn’t change our circumstances the way we want. Instead, He may change us.

The encouragement is that if we find ourselves in a challenging work situation or relationship, we can know that God has a purpose for us, and though we may not be able to change the people in our situation, we can change our own perspective and find contentment and belonging despite how people may view us.

For some of us, God may make it obvious that we do need to move on from the situation we’re in. But for others of us, God may have us stick out a stressful work environment, tough family situation we want to run from, or marriage that isn’t ideal.

The Real Lesson of the Story: You Can Be Loved For Being You

So the real lesson the story isn’t that I should try to be a Rachel if I’m not. The story reminds me not to find my sole value in the desires of a person because I may be sorely disappointed. God gave us male-female relationships for our enjoyment and fulfillment, yes, but if the male is our source, the one we look to for our sense of worth, we will find ourselves on shaky ground. We may find ourselves in an unhealthy cycle of striving, like Leah, to get him to notice us or try to make him love us.

God is the only One who can love you completely in the way that you need to be loved. And He finds delight in you, just the way you are! A better way to live is to be secure in who God made you to be. When we rest in the truth that God loves us, we find the strength and grace to navigate the relationships in our life in a healthy manner — whether the people in our closest realm see the value God sees in us — or not.

Carol’s note: Please understand that my intent in writing this article is not to encourage you to stay in an abusive situation. Please seek out the help of a Christian counselor or pastor if you are being physically or emotionally abused.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Letter to a Newlywed: 4 Things a New Bride Needs to Know About Marriage

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I barely weighed 115 pounds when I got married.

I know some of you reading this may have decided you don’t like me now, but I honestly tried to gain weight and couldn’t. (I assure you this is not a problem for me any longer.)

When I went shopping for wedding dresses, most of the dresses were in large stock sizes, so the sales clerk had to clip back the dresses with massive clips just to give me an idea of what each dress would look like. And then, in a stroke of genius, the sales lady offered to show me some dresses on the clearance rack — in smaller sizes. Back then, even a size 6 was a bit roomy for me, and I finally slid into a size 4 dress that actually fit me. No alterations needed.

I am convinced I bought that particular gown more because it actually fit than because it was my dream dress. I had envisioned myself in a mermaid style number and instead walked away with a sequined tulle ballet-skirted gown. However, it was still beautiful, and we bought it on the spot. I didn’t get to try it on again until right before I was to fly down for our destination wedding.

And then I noticed that my dress no longer fit like a glove. Either I had lost a few pounds sometime between when I had tried on the dress in the store or the underskirts they had given me with the dress did not fill it out as much as the sample slip I had used. Thus, I had a little extra room under the fabric in the back where the dress met my tailbone.

The sales clerk assured me that that the space was so slight, it could be remedied with a fuller petticoat. The wedding was looming up in just a few days, so I took the dress as-is with the different petticoat.

But, if the truth be told — even with the recommended skirts underneath, I still had too much room in the waist of the dress. There wasn’t anything I could do with the wedding upon me. I simply wore the dress, and probably no one other than me even noticed that it did not contour to every curve as it was designed to. But it still bothered me a little at the time.

In looking back at my wedding dress dilemma, I have found that marriage is kind of like that wedding dress I wore all those years ago. Some days it fits better than others. It has taken some adjusting, some altering to fit into a life with someone who lived independently of me for the majority of his life.

Now, 15 years later, here’s what I would say to any starry-eyed bride walking down the aisle:

1. Educate yourself on gender differences.

You may be reading this thinking, huh? What is there to know? I got this! Let me assure you, from one woman to another, men have very different needs, communication modes and behaviors. Period. Even knowing this going into marriage, I still didn’t really get how these differences would crop up immediately. Some of our earliest fights occurred because I had no idea how to handle this man, this utter alien from outer space.

I had grown up with three sisters and a fairly distant father. I had no reference point for how to interpret my husband’s actions. I found it helpful to read several books in my early marriage. A few that I really enjoyed were Staying Close: Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation in Marriage, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey; Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray; and The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Smalley. We also benefited from joining a life group at church focused on couples and attending several couples’ events at church.

I am still learning what makes my husband tick, but understanding that males generally have different things that motivate them and make them operate (including entirely different wiring in their brains) has helped me to understand Keith better and not expect him to have the same reactions to life events and conversations as me.

2. Get involved in a church community.

As tempting as it is to run off together and never leave each other’s sight, you will have to come up for air eventually, and you need Christian community to support your marriage and help bring accountability and community into your life.

I can think of several turning points in my early marriage — and two important ones I can think of are when we went to church for the first time together when we were first married, and when we found a home church once we got established in my husband’s home state. A Washington-born girl, I was extremely homesick when my then military husband was honorably discharged, and we made the decision to move permanently to Georgia. That homesickness began to fade once we got plugged into a good church.

We both benefited from being part of a faith community where we could learn more about God and connect with other individuals in similar life stages (and in even more advanced life stages). We could know that we weren’t alone in some of the struggles we were having, and we could get advice and knowledge from couples further along in their life journey.

3. Adjust unrealistic expectations.

Not only is it necessary to learn about gender-related relational differences, it is necessary to make sure your overall expectations are not creating an unrealistic standard for your spouse. The day before my wedding, my then future father-in-law gave me some sage advice regarding expectations: he told me to lower them! I thought at the time that the advice sounded a little odd. Why would I do that? And now that I have been married for some time, I have a better sense of what he meant.

Lowering expectations doesn’t mean that you don’t make your needs known. It also doesn’t mean you pretend like you don’t have any needs or wants or allow someone to de-value or disrespect you. However, what it does mean is that you don’t put the unrealistic expectation on the other person to know what to always do and say in the exact way you think they should — to make you happy.

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (3)

I have long since discovered that my husband is good at a lot of things. We have many meaningful talks, and I tell him just about everything. But he often doesn’t have the reactions I think he should or always meet every emotional need I have. And I can’t expect him to.

I remember after having my first baby, I was overwhelmed with the recovery, hormones, decisions, fear. I was having a hard time learning how to breast-feed, and I felt like a total failure. Everyone in my family breast-fed — my mom, my sister, but I absolutely hated it. I thought it was awful. I liked feeding my baby from a bottle better, but I was afraid to stop breast-feeding because I feared I wouldn’t be a good mom if I didn’t adhere to more natural practices.

Enter in unrealistic expectations: I wanted my husband to understand my emotions, what I was going through. When I shared with him how I felt, he just shrugged and said, “Just use formula if you want.” End of discussion.

I wanted him to understand what a big deal this decision was for me. In retrospect, I realize my husband was just reacting out of his reference point. I really needed the soothing experience of talking with other women who had gone through similar experiences. I get it. If my husband were unloading on me about a problem unique to men, I might have a hard time relating to it.

The bottom line: Husbands can’t meet all our needs. We have a God for that. We can also benefit from other friendships that can help us in whatever life stage we are in.

 4. Apply Christian principles in the home.

In my first few years of marriage, I was in a bit of a backslidden state as a Christian. I was distrustful of certain Christian principles I had seen abused or misused in my own family or other families I observed. Although I knew about the biblical verses that instructed wives to submit to their husbands, I really didn’t feel that those passages applied to me.

Wounded in two dating relationships prior to meeting my husband, I had concluded that I needed to stop being so needy and clingy. In an effort to protect my heart, I became very independent. I would make what decisions I wanted to, come and go as I pleased, and not act like I needed anything from him. As you can imagine, there was some friction caused by this self-sufficient attitude of mine.

One Sunday, I went to church mad. I don’t remember if I had had an argument with Keith or what the problem was, but I had a list in my head of things Keith needed to do differently in our relationship. While I expected God to side with me — God ended up doing a work in me rather than my husband! During the course of the service, the Holy Spirit strongly convicted me and showed me a clear picture of what I was like to live with. And the picture wasn’t pretty. I felt I was to apologize to Keith for not letting him lead. It was difficult for me to humble myself and go to him and tell him that I had been wrong, but I felt a sense of peace and relief after that conversation.

I came to the revelation during that incident that God designed marriage with specific roles in mind, and for my marriage to work the best way possible, I needed to obey biblical mandates. When I allowed my husband to take the role of leadership, I honored not only him but I honored God. I had more tranquility in my home and more in my soul when I obeyed what Scripture said about my role as a wife.

Does submission mean I am a meek doormat who never gives an opinion or speaks up? No. I tell him what I think. I give him advice. I would never participate in a wrong action out of a false belief that that constitutes as submission, but from that moment I had in church where God made it clear that my attitude needed to change, I have made the effort to support him as the head of the family and let him determine what direction we will go in terms of our major decisions.

While there can be days where marriage feels just as ill-fitting as the waistline of the dress from my wedding day, the good thing about a marriage relationship is that it is flexible — it can grow as you grow.

There have been moments where I have been so angry at Keith only to have other moments where I am so happy with where we are in our relationship. God cares about your relationship and knows the things you need to help make you thrive in it.

Above all — seek Him, and you will find that the more you grow in your relationship with Him, the more you will know what things you can do to make your marriage “fit” better than it does now.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Breaking Negative Soul Ties: Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage

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My senior pastor once told a story of a third world country he knew of where families lived in and among mountainous piles of trash.

In preparing to write this post, I remembered his story as well as a mission trip I went on as a 16-year-old with my youth group. We went to Mexico City where we helped in a school and clinic on the outskirts of the city. I still remember crowding into vans and making the drive outside the city where pavement ended and rolling hills of dirt, trash, and cardboard boxes collided. Driving on the steep, muddy, pot-holed roads, I observed whole families living in slums.

These families did not appear particularly sad or disturbed. In fact, I wondered if they knew what it was like to have clean floors, running water, and plumbing. I wondered if they knew what they were missing.

When I first heard my senior pastor tell the story of the trash piles, he did so to illustrate the point that many of us in first world countries are living in garbage of our own. We may have sparkling kitchens, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing, but (sometimes unknowingly) we live in trash piles just the same.

Our trash piles exist in our own relationships and families.

I remember my insides churning during that particular service. I remember walking down with a trembling stomach and asking for prayer. My entire family had come out for a visit, and they watched me make that long, solitary walk from the balcony down to the altar. But I couldn’t do anything but walk away from my pew because of the tears I was sure they would see in my eyes.

Although I did feel some of the emotional burden lift from me that day at the altar, it was not until a few years later that I would receive a full healing from the emotional baggage in my past. Ironically, it was at a time when I wasn’t even thinking about getting healed or expecting it.

Since then, I have discovered that I had so much emotional baggage in my life because I had allowed myself to be connected to others with negative soul ties. When Jesus walked me through personal healing, He had me break the negative soul ties in my life and get free of the relationships I had never been able to let go of.

What is a Soul Tie?

A soul tie is a close emotional bond or a knitting together with another person’s spirit. According to the Great Bible Study site, the Bible does not use the term “soul tie” but does refer to being “knit together” with another person both in friendship and in marriage. A key example of a positive soul tie in the Bible is in the friendship of Jonathan and David. In 1 Samuel 18:1, it says that Jonathan became “one in spirit” with David and “loved him as himself.” Another time that the Bible speaks of a positive emotional tie with another person that exists on the soul level is in marriage. Ephesians 5:31 speaks of a “man leaving his father and mother” and becoming “one flesh” with his wife.

Negative soul ties are those that can form in many ways, but for the purposes of this article I will just be focusing on those that form through sex before marriage or through idolatry of a person. (Soul ties can also form through vows and commitments, rituals, accepting gifts from those involved in witchcraft, etc.)

Idolatry of a person means allowing a person to take almost a god-like status in your mind and constantly thinking of ways to meet his or her expectations — even if it means changing yourself or going against what you believe.

How I Formed Negative Soul Ties

I realize in looking back at my past that I did have some sexual sin, and I engaged in the idolatry of certain individuals. I had both friendships and romantic relationships where I idolized the other person and an unhealthy attachment formed, or I allowed myself to be idolized.

These relationships developed because of my own low self-esteem. I was constantly looking for love and validation from other people. I allowed relationships in my life to define me. I clung onto persons I felt elevated me by allowing me into their presence. I allowed myself to engage in both homosexual and heterosexual behavior because I wanted the acceptance and love. I made individuals in my life into Saviors.

And even when I tried to move on from these relationships, I still felt tied to certain persons. There was a brokenness on the inside that I couldn’t get rid of. Even after prayer and confession of my wrong in these relationships to God, I still felt defined by and connected to these unhealthy relationships.

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Although He didn’t tell me what He was doing at first, Jesus had me go back to these friends and relationships and break negative emotional ties. Here’s how He had me break them: The first thing I did is talk with a Hope minister at my church about my past, sharing it for the first time. Then I went back to some of the individuals and apologized for my part in the sexual sin and told them what Jesus was doing in me.

I also apologized for any bitterness I had held against them for the bad way the relationship had ended or the ways I had felt they had let me down. I also was honest with the person if he or she had hurt me and spoke about that to the person for the first time. In some cases, I wrote a letter or sent an email. In other cases, I talked directly with the person.

I realize that not everyone may agree with my action of returning to these individuals. Certainly, not everyone agreed with this action when I was doing it. I was seeing a Hope minister at my church prior to my decision to make the contact with these individuals. When our sessions were coming to a close, I began to get a few people in mind that I needed to go back to. She assured me this was completely unnecessary, but I felt Jesus telling me to do it.

What It Felt Like to Break Free of My Negative Soul Ties

The process of making contacts to a handful of people from my past was the most excruciating one I have ever undertaken. I was alone. I had no support for my endeavor, and I underestimated the emotional toll it would have on me. What no one told me beforehand is that going back to the past dredges up old feelings. I felt, in many of those cases, not like a mature 35-year-old woman. I felt like a 14-year-old again. A 16-year-old. All of the fears and insecurities I had experienced in those moments so long ago raced back as I was doing it.

However, I felt Jesus nudging me on. How could He be so mean? So pushy? How could He make me relive all the awful again? I know why now. I had never handled those relationships properly during the time or ended them properly, so I had been left with a great amount of baggage. Soul ties to people I didn’t want to be tied to anymore. He wanted me to do it so that I could get free.

Additionally, I believe that God had me go to these individuals to not only break the emotional ties but also to help me overcome my shame over my wrong choices. I didn’t realize that by hiding what I had done from others, I was being held in bondage by shame and guilt. But as embarrassing as it was for me to talk with these individuals and share with others about my past — I ended up feeling really clean and peaceful inside afterwards.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you are reading this and you know you have a lot of baggage from your past, start with God. One thing I was amazed to discover is that He did not condemn me for my wrong choices — He helped me get past them. The condemnation I felt for a long time was actually coming from Satan. Facing the people in my past that had hurt me or I had given too much power to for far too long was very freeing.

Ask God to reveal to you where you might have negative soul ties with another person (either in your past or now) because of sexual sin or idolatry. If you haven’t already, I would ask God to forgive you for your part in sexual sin with the other person. Or, if there was not a sexual relationship but you know that the relationship was unhealthy for other reasons, ask God to forgive you for idolizing that person or putting that relationship above your relationship with Him.

Then ask God if there is another step you need to take. I would also highly recommend sitting down with a Christian counselor or a pastor versed in counseling. With that being said, go with what God is telling you above all else. Like I mentioned, I had a difference of opinion with my Hope minister about whether it was necessary to revisit the past.

I sought God very carefully on the issue over a several month period and received several confirmations about what He wanted me to do.

If you feel that God is nudging you to contact a person, but that person was a controller or abuser in the past, or you are concerned that a physical or emotional attraction remains, keep contact minimal — a letter. An email. And tell someone else what you are doing so he or she can hold you accountable. If the person or the person’s family can’t be reached, write a letter to the person to get the negative emotions out and then trust that God has healed you because of your step of faith.

God doesn’t intend for us to have sexual relationships outside of marriage or have negative soul ties with other people. He created boundaries to protect us. However, He doesn’t condemn you if you have made unwise choices. He wants to help you get healed.

However, just like He asked the crippled man at the pool at Bethesda, He wants to know: Do you want to be healed?

He wants to help, but there may be a step you have to take to receive that healing.

Author’s note: I wrote about soul ties in regards to consensual relationships, but soul ties can also form in sexually abusive, non-consensual relationships. If you were a victim of rape or sexual abuse, I would urge you to seek out the help of a Christian professional. You do not need to apologize for the wrong another person did to you. Your path to healing may look different than mine. I would also urge you not to be in contact with anyone who has physically harmed you — or put yourself in danger in any way.

If you are reading through this and feel that you may have negative soul ties in a friendship or relationship, please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will pray for you. If you would like to keep your name confidential, or have more questions about my experience, you are welcome to write to me through the Contact page, and I would love to help you on your journey to freedom.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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My Biggest Assignment in Christian Ministry

assignment When I launched my blog a few months ago, I received positive response from a series of articles. Excited about the feedback, I voiced these words to a circle friends, “It is totally worth it to me if I helped someone.”

A wise friend stopped me after the conversation and pulled me aside to tell me that she writes for God’s pleasure and no one else’s. I thought about that for a moment and had to agree with her. Before her comment, I had started thinking of posts that would draw more favorable reaction, topics I could talk about that would appeal to readers. But I had to stop myself.

It is totally worth it to me if I please God. Even though I very much want to help others with the content of my blog, I write the posts that God gives me and directs me to write. I know they will help people, but I must do it not for my readers but for my audience of one: Him.

I can’t let my desire to attract readers and grow a ministry distract or divert me from what God tells me to do. An important observation that Oswald Chambers makes about Christian service is this:

The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus.

My motivation for what I’m doing is because He told me to and no other reason. If I orient myself instead solely around the needs of others, I’m bound to get burned out, frustrated and irritated. I’m also bound to get caught up in self-worship and set myself up as the object of others’ worship rather than just the conduit God uses to channel their worship to Him.

Paul was very careful to always point his ministry back to Jesus. When a crowd started to worship him and Barnabas for healing, he “tore his clothes” and declared, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you” (Acts 14:15).

My tendency is to want the praise and want the spotlight. But God wants me to worry about pleasing Him alone. I need only look at the ministry of Jesus to discover what boundaries I need to set up in my relationship and ministry endeavors to ensure that I do just that.

Jesus Practiced Self-Care

Although it may appear like an illogical place to start, one of the best ways I can serve others best in ministry is by first taking care of myself. A guest blogger I had post several months ago wisely noted that we need to apply the oxygen mask to our face first before we can assist others with theirs. She was speaking in the context of motherhood, but the same can be true in a ministry sense as well.

The oxygen mask I need in ministry is time spent alone with God.

Serving on a worship team a few years back, I was totally unprepared for the spiritual attack that came against me on the weeks I would sing. I assumed that since I was ministering to the body of Christ that I would have some sort of special grace and protection — and God does protect those who serve Him. However, I had more than a normal amount of appliances break down within a few month span; instances where my children contracted strange illnesses; foreboding thoughts and moments waking up afraid at night; and situations where conflict would break out despite my best attempts to be peaceable with others.

I collapsed under the weight of the spiritual hurricane like a cheap tent. I was a complete wreck. I didn’t realize I had to prepare for spiritual battle by immersing myself daily in the Word and communion with Him.

The same has been true of my blog writing. The attack has come in the form of fear and doubt every time I write a post. Ugly thoughts invade my mind: No one is going to read this. You’re not a good writer. Why can’t you sound like this other writer? You probably didn’t hear God right. Are you sure you understood that verse?

The onslaughts are real and exhausting and make me want to close down my site and hide from the internet. They make me cry out to God, “Where are you, Lord? Why is this happening to me? This isn’t normal!” And I think that serving God can’t or shouldn’t possibly be this hard. But it is. I wish my Christian walk only consisted of those graceful moments sitting in my Grandma’s church watching sunlight beam through stain glassed windows casting patterns of bright color on the floor, the choir singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” — Luke 5:16

Jesus modeled how to combat the pressure and conflict He experienced as a public figure in ministry by going into the wilderness alone to pray. Jesus made Himself available to the masses, but He also was intentional about the time He spent in solitude.

He knew the importance of drawing boundaries around Himself. He didn’t apologize or make excuses for the times He slipped away from the crowds. He knew that He had to spend time with God to carry out God’s will — to know the words to say and have the energy to meet the demands of those who continually pressed in on Him. As commentator Adam Clarke observes:

A man can give nothing unless he receive it; and no man can be successful in the ministry who does not constantly depend upon God, for the excellence of the power is all from him.

Others’ Expectations Can’t Trump God’s

Not only do I need to make time for solitude; I need to set clear boundaries so the needs of others don’t distract me from what God has asked me to do. For a long time, I thought that being a Christian meant being nice to everyone, and I mistakenly equated nice with doing what other people wanted me to do even if it meant that I had to suppress how I really felt about a situation inside.

However, Jesus never put others’ wants above His Father’s commands. Note what He says when He is teaching a crowd and someone informs him that his mother and brothers are waiting outside to speak with him:

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? (Matthew 12:48)

Ouch! Jesus is painfully forthright here. Jesus clearly wants everyone to know that there is “no tie of relationship more sacred than spiritual relationship” (John Calvin commentary). Although we are not told why His mother needed Him, she clearly felt that the matter was urgent enough to interrupt His teaching to get to Him. He, however, lets the informant know that His Father’s work cannot be interrupted, and He gives His reply in the hearing of all listening to make a lesson out of the incident.

Jesus’s answer demonstrates how I am to handle those persistent matters that press in on me each day as I decide what tasks to invest my time in. Jesus doesn’t intend for me to starve all of the relationships in my life and spend every waking hour working on ministry projects. However, serving God means putting Him above the other relationships or other obligations in my life. That means that I may have to disappoint other people at times or do things that aren’t always comfortable for me.

Several years ago, in a different season as a new, scared young mom, I held my daughter out of the nursery on Wednesday night services up until the time she was seven months old because I was afraid that she would get sick if I put her in with other babies, and I would have to call off work. I had watched other co-workers provoke irritated responses from superiors when they had to leave early or call in sick to tend to sick little ones.

Petrified of disappointing my administration at my job but very much wanting to get back into Wednesday night choir practice, I didn’t know what to do. As I was trying to come up with a solution while walking the hall of the church one night, I felt the Lord very clearly speak to me and say, “Carol, you are putting your daughter above me.”

Whoa! I felt for sure that God would admire me for being a protective mother, but I learned that God was asking me to obey Him and get back into singing in that season without letting the expectations of my work or my own self-generated expectations about being a good mom take precedence over what God was asking me to do. (Rest assured that there are certainly times God asks us to set aside time just to mother, but for that particular time He had called me to another role as well.)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galations 1:10)

What my biggest assignment truly entails is being a daughter of the King and letting my service to others flow out of that secure place I find when I put my relationship with Him first. Although I have other important jobs that I am called to — mom, blogger, friend, wife, sister — when I keep my eyes fixed on Him, He helps me prioritize and balance the demands in my life so that I don’t end up sidetracked or overwhelmed.

Because when I fillet open my motives, lay them bare like a fish on a carving board, what lies underneath my desire to have glowing feedback to my writing and ministry is me. My desire to look good. And my job is actually to make Him look good. Yes, I am called to lay down my life for others, but I am called to lay down my life for Him first.

And His approval of me must be more important than the fleeting words of those around me.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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