Thought Catalog


The Morning After I Was Sexually Assaulted I Kissed My Rapist Goodbye

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 10:00 PM PDT

Cecil Vedemil
Cecil Vedemil

If you're sexually assaulted by someone you know, there's a weird feeling that comes afterward.

All the trust you have for yourself dies and you feel betrayed by your own body and mind.

You feel like your instincts, judgments, and body have failed you – because nothing that existed inside of you had ever warned you there was danger.

Your ideas of friend, trust, sex, and sexuality – everything is left scattered around the room in the same pile of clothes that leave you bare.

Who you thought was a friend has suddenly become the most dangerous thing that's ever happened to you, and not only do you realize this friend can't be trusted but there's a part of you that realizes it's hard to even trust yourself,

because,
well,
how could this happen?

It almost feels like you're hollow and none of you exists. You feel taken, and stupid, and exposed, and alone; yet you're in a room with yourself and a friend, but neither of you are each other anymore.

The morning after I was sexually assaulted I actually kissed my rapist goodbye. I would later regret this for the years to come.

You know the video that uses tea as a metaphor for consent? My sexual assault was a combination of the tea brewer forcing tea down an inebriated and sleeping person's throat. I remember saying no, I remember crying, but I also remember just wanting to go to sleep – and when I woke up, I didn't know who I was.

It almost feels like you're hollow and none of you exists. You feel taken, and stupid, and exposed, and alone; yet you're in a room with yourself and a friend, but neither of you are each other anymore.

I realize now that I kissed him goodbye because I was confused, and scared, and I had woken up to a reality I hadn't yet comprehended. I was also hung over, and embarrassed, and ashamed.

I kissed my rapist goodbye because he took something from me and I wanted to get it back and it was probably the most natural, vulnerable, primitive act I'd ever expressed – like a baby who cries to find comfort, or like a feral animal who stays loyal for food.

The power structure had showed itself and I embodied the smallest, weakest prey in the room. I kissed him because he had something and I wanted it back so badly.

All the talk about victims' actions in the media and why they do what they do after a sexual assault is really quite triggering. Victims sometimes do weird shit because sexual violence is weird shit to deal with.

You grow up trusting yourself, making relationships with people, sharing yourself with others, and out of nowhere sexual violence throws everything back in your face. Power dynamics emerge, you become a piece of meat, and your idea of self is displaced as realities and boundaries are shifted.

I wish someone talked to my rapist and asked him why he did what he did in the same way they questioned why I did what I did.

I wish he had to struggle to find words for stupid questions in the same way that I've sometimes had to do.

I also wish he had to internalize the fact that he's a rapist in the same way I've had to digest the fact that I'm a survivor.

I kissed my rapist goodbye because he took something from me and I wanted to get it back and it was probably the most natural, vulnerable, primitive act I'd ever expressed.

When someone does something really fucking weird to you and your body, it takes a lot of fucking weirdness to try and figure out how to deal with that.

Next time someone wants to analyze a survivor's actions and figure out whether or not they're logical – they need to do us all a favor and ask themselves how logical it is to deal with sexual violence at all.

I'm healthy enough to recognize what happened to me now, but it takes awhile for your mind to catch up. After getting sexually assaulted by a friend, it's like a part of your life is born and disappears on the same day.

But where there's weakness there's strength, where there's silence there's a voice, and where there's hard shit to deal with we find our ways to deal with it. TC mark

When You Finally Meet The Man Who Makes You Forget About The One Who Hurt You

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 08:00 PM PDT

tenchiphotos
tenchiphotos

If you are aching over a man, wondering if he'll ever make it right, I can tell you the answer. I can tell you now, from a distance, because I can’t bear the pain of remembering too closely this exact love…I can tell you. But you won’t believe me. You will rip apart inside. You will never be the same…The answer is no. He won’t leave her. He won't stop drinking, cheating, lying… You will NEVER be first.

Even when he’s told her about you. Even when you’ve moved mountains to be near him. Even when you've allowed him to "borrow" and never replenish every valuable resource in your precious inner ecosystem. You will still never be first…not in his life.

But, when you realize how fucking PHENOMENAL you are, and he doesn’t, you will eventually have to question his judgment. Then, you’ll meet someone who you will constantly compare to him at first. And in the passion and profound experience department, new guy will seem lesser. Then, you’ll get sick, or sad, or have raging PMS, and New Guy WILL SHOW UP. New Guy will catch a glimpse the primitive cave paintings left by Unobtainable Guy and you will be ashamed.

But New Guy wants to see more…

Because he sees the scars on your soul are artwork which only enhances your inner beauty. And in that moment, your tears will turn to joy, because you will realize that New Guy WILL put you first.

Always. And he will never make you worry that he might leave. That he might lie. That he might cheat. And suddenly New Guy will be THE ONLY GUY.

Years past Unobtainable Guy, you will still shed a tear for what you thought he was making you, the you and you were making him, the we you thought the two of you would be when the we he created in you-that unsettling feeling you thought was love, when you heard his voice.

Finally, you found a story whose cover you didn't judge, like you would have before the hostile takeover your precious ecosystem is still repairing. You would never have even read the first sentence of this story, if the he/we had ever gotten to be without she. Now, you see…The real story.

The one where you became the lead character in that life, where the brilliant protagonist thinks you're beautiful always, never makes you cry, always makes you laugh, and will tell you how deeply he loves you, even when he doesn't like you. A portion of your heart remembers the serendipitous Unobtainable Him from the past. It causes a murmur.

But, now you know now that you need a man who will put you first, not promise that he will someday. The Only Guy puts you first so reliably that you’ve grown to expect it…which you should’ve done all along. When you can complete a thought that doesn’t remind you of the dark unreliable him, and finish a conversation without tears, give someone who is very unlike Mr. Unobtainable in every way the time of day.

And when you finally hear him singing your praises, you wont even notice the murmur… He might not give you butterflies, but that’s because he’s busy thinking of how to give you everything you deserve. TC mark

13 Men Reveal The One Sexual Act They Never Thought They’d Like (But Ended Up Loving)

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 07:00 PM PDT

alaskangeles
alaskangeles

1. “Before a girl ever touched my penis, I thought getting my balls handled would freak me out. As it turns out, though, some quality ball-handling is an integral part of penis play.”

— Victor, 21


2. “69-ing sounded mad awkward but I felt like it was one of those things you gotta do just to say you've done it. I am a child. It's not awkward at all. It's lit.”

— Nick, 20


3. “Not gonna lie, the one and only time a woman has licked my butthole was pretty turnt.”

— Charlie, 23


4. “As far as sex goes, I love it all. But one thing I didn't think I'd be particularly into was using a vibrator on a girl. I guess I thought I wouldn't get anything out of it. I was wrong, it's mad fun.”

— Zander, 25


5. “Making sex tapes. I really didn't understand why people did it before I started dating my boyfriend. But it's very hot. And it's not just about watching the videos afterwards…it's about watching yourself in the camera while you're recording. I'm very into it.”

— Danny, 21


6. “Back in the day, I avoided cunnilingus like the plague. By senior year in college, though, I'd slept with a few grown ass women who aggressively pointed out that refusing to go down on a girl is not chill. All it took was some well-instructed practice to make me realize that giving head can be as satisfying as getting head, when you're doing it right.”

— Jamal, 23


7. “Three way with another dude. I just had one with the girl I'm hooking up with and a buddy of mine. I never thought I'd be down for it. But she was so into it and she looked hot as fuck. Keeping it real, there were some weird eye contact moments between me and my friend. but other than that, I give it an A+.”

— Christian, 22


8. “Dirty talk seemed like torture till I was inspired by a woman who really knew what to say. She didn't say anything crazy. But a simple, well-delivered ‘cum for me’ did the trick.”

— Nanda, 23


9. “I've never had full on anal, but when I'm very drunk, I like messing around with their butts a bit.”

— Greg, 21


10. “Semi-public sex. In a library or a common room, for example. Theoretically I'm way too paranoid to pull it off. Luckily, alcohol exists.”

— Kenny, 22


11. “Never thought I'd be into any s&m type shit till I started dating a woman with half a closet full of bondage materials. She knows how to use them. That's all there is to it.”

— Porter, 25


12. “You couldn't have paid me to have period sex when I was youngin. But I'm grown now, and I've realized it's not gross. I think girls are actually hornier on their periods, plus a little blood can be great as far as natural lube goes.”

— Xavier, 24


13. “I'm not speaking from experience here, but I know a few savages who swear by a finger in the butt.”

— Troy, 21 TC mark

To The Friends I Have Lost, Thank You For Teaching Me How To Be Better

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 05:00 PM PDT

23844323533_06344aeab3_o
Paolo Raeli

Okay. So, I read this on a picture. "Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that for them."

I have been analyzing my past friendships and thinking about why each one of them ended. What is it that I lacked, or what it is that they lacked, if it is was avoidable, or how can I learn from all that happened and didn't happen. There are always casualties on both sides in a fight. The least I can do is look back and keep myself from repeating the same mistakes like before. Self-reflection is the highest form of respect I can give to all these relationships that changed me, sometimes irreversibly, into a different person. Some people made me kinder, some made me more callous. I came up with the following observations. These are the ground rules for my future friendships, and I've set these in a way that makes both people, me and my friend, dignified to ourselves.

1. If I'm keeping you as a priority in my life, I would expect that in return too. I don't think I have the energy to give 100% of myself to people who give me just 10% back of their real selves, anymore. I'm going to reciprocate what I get. Nothing more, nothing less. I might care for you more than you care for me, but don't think for one second, that I'm going to let that cloud my judgement. I'm going to give 100% of myself TO myself first.

2. If we're having a disagreement, I would see how far you're willing to go before you lose it and how you respond to that. I hate losing, but for my friends, I'd purposefully lose a thousand arguments, because, their friendship is more important to me than my pride. Respecting each other's opinions is very important. Not just in friendships, but in general. Not everybody you meet is going to agree with everything you say. Sometimes disagreements are healthy, sometimes they're toxic. Agreeing to disagree is a healthy way to go. You can just put that subject under a list of things you won't talk about, if the subject is that serious. You don't need to fight about everything you feel differently about. It's okay, you can let it be.

3. If you hear rumors about me and don't tell me, that seems really wrong, because whenever I hear something bad about anybody who I care about, first I tell the person concerned. It's better if they hear it from you, than somebody whispering it or shouting it at them in a hallway or during class. Don't be swayed by what other people, who are not in your friend circle, say about your friend. If you distance yourself from me, solely because of something you 'heard somewhere', I'm going to give up on you. First confirm it directly from your friend, never assume things. Never, ever, ever assume things about somebody based on what you 'heard'. Nothing hurts more than distrust from people whom you trust the most. Relationships are irreversibly broken that way. And you both suffer. One can't forgive, and the other can't stop apologizing.

4. When I get a text/call, I immediately reply or apologize profusely if I'm late for any reason. Don't be a shit, and kindly apologize to me if you're late. That's a sign of respect. I don't care how much 'best friends' we are. Respect is an important aspect in any kind of relationship to me. I give respect to you, I deserve it too. And I'm going to let you know if you disrespect me, and if you're not willing to fix it, I'm going to let you go. Nobody is more important to me than me. I'm not going to let anybody hurt me anymore. I can suffer, for you, with you. But, I'm done suffering BECAUSE of people. I don't deserve the hurt from people who feel no remorse while hurting me. These boundaries will keep me alive.

5. If you try and understand me, I'll try and understand you. If you can't, tell me. But don't you go and talk to other people about me. That's how rumors start. Ask me things about me that you're uncertain about, tell ME what you think about my bad aspects, I'll try, yes, I'll try my best to fix them, for you. Don't tell other people my flaws; don't tell them my secrets because you had nothing else to talk about. Don't tell them how my parents and I fight; don't tell them how much I have thought about dying. Don't tell them things I just told YOU. Tell me if you can't handle my sorrow; tell me if you hate something I do. Don't tell others. Don't tell others. If you're in a fight with a friend, don't go around telling people their secrets because you're angry or hurt. If you do, expect that person to never, ever come back to you. That's the worst thing you can do to somebody. You break their souls and their trust in everything. Keep people's secrets even if you are not in each other's life anymore.

6. I expect you to JUST listen to me when I tell you that I'm going through a rough patch when I always do that for you. Chances are probably that if you don't listen to me, I would probably do that anyway when it comes to you. But if I can't tell you things that bother me, what is the point of our friendship? Friendship is about being there in the rough times more than the happy times. I'm ready to sell my soul for your happiness; can you do that for me? Do you have any idea how much it hurts when you're there for somebody, when you've always put somebody ahead of you, and they just brush you aside, when you need them? Honestly, it feels like you're getting stabbed again and again. It hurts like hell. If you or me, if we hurt each other like that, unintentionally, I'll do my best to make it up to you. Please do that for me too. Even if we're having a bad day ourselves, and we just don't have the energy to be there for each other, please don't ignore the text or call. Tell me, "I'm so sorry, I had a rough day. I'll definitely talk to you tomorrow." I'll understand. I'll understand.

7. When you're really, really friends with someone, even if you don't share interests with them, you still try and keep up with their interests because you want to see their smile when you know something about they like. Don't make me feel small and insignificant for liking bands you don't like, or not liking an actor/actress you like. Insults from my friends make me really self-conscious about myself. Encourage me, I'll encourage you. Don't make me feel small because we have different opinions on things. Don't make me feel stupid for not knowing about something popular. You might forget about it 10 seconds after you said it, but I'll replay it again and again throughout the night. Sometimes it takes just a wrong sentence to cause the rift between two unbreakable people. I'll try to be honest with you when you say something that hurts me. Please do that too. I am more than happy to apologize to you. Don't swallow the hurt all by yourself. I'll try to make it better.

8. I expect you to choose me 'cause I will choose you no matter what. Even sometimes over my siblings. If you're really my friend, that is. But when you abandon me, for mere things that you might have liked doing that hurts a fucking lot. Even if you don't think I'll like it, ASK ME FIRST. I'd go to hell with you, if you asked me to. Don't assume shit and leave me behind.

9. I expect my friends to know that even though it's no secret that I love being alone and require a lot of private space, even when we're hanging out, if I tell you to leave me alone during a difficult time and you completely leave me alone, that sucks so much to be honest, 'cause if I was in your shoes, I would still keep nagging me until I finally 'fessed up that I'm really fucking sad. Don't leave me alone when I need you the most 'cause I ask you to. Nobody wants that. Just asking, "How are you now?" every once in a while is enough. Don't call, though. Come visit me. SEE how I'm doing. Sometimes the presence of someone is enough to heal the pain that you never thought could be healed.

10. Wish me at 12:00 A.M on my birthday. Don't fall asleep. Because no matter how tired I am, no matter what disagreement we might've had, if it's your birthday, I'm wishing you AT 12:00 A.M. I'll constantly keep letting you know that even though you don't like me like you used to, you'll always be my friend and I treat my friends like royals. I'll always tell you how grateful I am to have you as a part of my life. There aren't enough "I love you"s in the world, there aren't enough "I'm sorry"s, and I'll find them all for you. I'll never stop reminding you how special you are. We have to treat each other like treasures because WE ARE TREASURES. Friendship is the most valuable treasure, one that increases in value when shared. There is no equivalent to it. "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country", E.M.Foster said. Choice, that's the thing. Choose me, I'll choose you.

This is to all the friends that I've lost over the years, or who drifted apart, the ones who left me alone, the ones who never did, the ones who never talked to me after I told them they were the best people I had ever met, the ones who turned their backs on me so fast and destroyed my reputation as 'retribution' or 'revenge'.

I STILL think about you. I still think and smile of all the good things you said to me.

The times you stood up for me. The times we shared food, the pictures that we took together with the captions of how we'll never, ever leave each other.

Thank you for everything, even the bad memories.

You taught me that nothing lasts forever and that is perfectly alright.

I have been completely at fault many times for not reaching out when I should have but just to let you know, I've learned my lesson.

Just to let you know, I'll never, ever let anyone else down like I did to you. And to the ones that I still have pictures of in my phone, I still ask about you from old friends.

So, so many people have left me, so many I see from day-to-day, they look at me like they don't know me. But I do. And I'll still smile at you. Because you wanted to break me, by destroying me, but you know what? Thank you. You made me stronger and kinder than I ever could've imagined.

Thank you so goddamn much. TC mark

Because I Can’t Make You Love Me If You Don’t

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 04:00 PM PDT

Natalie Allen
Natalie Allen

It seems so simple and so easy, just love hard and it will all work out. Just give it your best. Just hold nothing back. Be brave. Be vulnerable. And everything will work out for you.

But you know that isn't always the case sometimes. Because sometimes you can love someone with everything you have, and you can still get it wrong. Sometimes it doesn't work out.

So why do we take these chances? Why do we risk heartbreak and tears and sleepless nights, if we know we could get it wrong?

Because on the other side of rejection, on the other side of that moment you question if you should say something, there comes bravery from within that allows you to continue with words you might regret. But under the surface is hope. Under the surface you wonder, can they reciprocate these intense feelings you have?

So you take a chance and you go for it. Because the regret we have more in life, isn't for the words we say but rather the words we repress, always wondering what if.

If you don't love me or feel the same way, that's one thing. But there's something that tells me this could be something. There's this feeling that I'm blindly trusting and holding onto I can't just walk away without giving it my best.

I know you felt it too. The intense exchange of looks, where I know your heart was beating as fast as mine. I could feel it as I laid there on you. Cause it wasn't just a kiss, it was the right kiss. And every moment we were together, I want to know if you felt the time frozen too. Like it was just us.

I'm never one to beg or plead or ask for attention. But this could be something. We could be onto something great here. I know you might be as scared as me. I know a lot of things can go wrong. I know you don't want to get hurt…again. I don't either.

But there's something about you I believe in. There's this feeling within me that is my only guide.

I cannot make you love me. I cannot make you feel things. I cannot force something if it just isn't there. But I think you know it too. And I think that's why this is as scary as it is.

Because the only thing scarier than getting it wrong, is getting it so right you suddenly have something to lose.

You might not be willing to make the first move, or admit what is feels so obvious that we can something. But here I am standing in front of you, asking you to take a chance on loving me.

Because I'll give you my best. I'll love you the way others haven't. I'll show you what you've deserved this whole time. Because you deserve the best. You deserve someone to love you the best they can. You deserve someone who enhances your life and makes it better. I want to be that person.

So I'm asking you as I sit here pouring my heart out. Pick me. Choose me. Love me.

Because here I am picking you. Here I am choosing you among the many people that are around. Because sometimes all you need is one to change your belief. Love me, because I think even if you break my heart, I'll still love you with every broken piece.

I don't want to be the only one to want this thing. But if for a moment you question maybe you should turn back around and not walk away, I'll be here. I'll be ready to take your hand, and I'll be ready to fall with you.

I don't have any intention of hurting you. I don't have intentions of backing out. I'm all in on this one. But if you're not, if you keep walking, I'll start with thank you.

Thank you for teaching me, this heart of mine has the ability to beat again even if it's a little bit broken. Because while I can't promise you a whole heart. I can promise to love you with every broken piece. TC mark

"I could make you happy, make your dreams come true. Nothing that I wouldn’t do. Go to the ends of the Earth for you, To make you feel my love." -Adele

To The Man Who Made Me Doubt My Beauty

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 03:00 PM PDT

Nastia Cloutier-Ignatiev
Nastia Cloutier-Ignatiev

1. I'm glad you're gone.

Trying to please you would've killed me. Now that you're out of my life, I can find someone who won't make me question my beauty. Someone who will tell me I'm gorgeous, even when my hair is knotted and nose is runny. Someone who won't mind when I gain a few pounds, because I'll still have the same beautiful soul inside, no matter what the scale says.

2. Cut the false advertisement crap.

Dabbing foundation over a few pimples isn't false advertisement. Covering up the bags under my eyes after getting only three hours of sleep isn't false advertisement. The human body isn't naturally ornamented. It shouldn't surprise you when I swipe a towel across my face and the pretty colors go away. But you know what is false advertisement? Pretending to be a good guy, swearing that you love me and would never hurt me, and then fucking me over anyway.

3. My confidence doesn't rely on men, anymore.

Once upon a time, I tortured myself by counting calories and stuffing my body into the thongs I knew you liked. My shopping cart was filled with ways to make you love me. But now, I'm smarter. Now, I dress for me. I don't need a man to check out my ass in order for me to feel sexy. I already know my worth.

4. I want someone who values my brain over my body.

I might not have the biggest boobs, but I have a big brain. If you were a decent guy, then you would've stopped staring at my ass for long enough to look into my eyes and listen to what I had to say. I'm smart, I'm sweet, and I'm sexy on the inside. It's too bad you focused on my outer "flaws" instead of seeing my inner beauty, because I'm a catch.

5. My beauty comes out the most when I'm happy.

I look the most beautiful when I'm doing something I love. When I'm talking about the subject I majored in, jamming out to my favorite song, or reading a novel by an author I'm crazy about. Beauty comes out in those tiny moments, when my inner self shines out of my eyes and smile.

6. I don't need as much makeup as I think I do.

I'm not going to paint my lips red and spend hour on my eyes every single time I leave the house, just so I can feel like I'm something special. Makeup is empowering for some women, but not for me. For me, it's just a way to cover up my flaws. But I'm done thinking of my face as one giant flaw. I'm going to embrace my natural look more often, because I don't need ten pounds of makeup to feel pretty anymore. A little blush and mascara is enough for me.

7. Beauty seriously comes in every shape and size.

I might not look like a supermodel, but Heidi Klum isn't the only type of woman in the world. There are gorgeous girls with big asses, gorgeous girls with small asses, gorgeous girls with pimples, and gorgeous girls with cellulite. My "flaws" don't make me any less beautiful. They just make me more unique.

8. You're ugly on the inside.

You're hot at first glance, but after your future girlfriends recover from their orgasms and actually catch a glimpse of your personality, they're going to become ex-girlfriends. Not everyone is as stupid as I was. They won't stick around for long, once they realize that you're as shallow as a kiddie pool.

9. I'm learning to love myself.

It's still a work in progress. There are days when I feel unstoppable, and there are days when I still feel like the ugliest girl in the room. But I'm not going to let a man control my confidence anymore. Who cares what they think? I'm the one who has to look at myself in the mirror each morning, so my opinion is the only one that matters.

10. Fuck you.

I'm beautiful. Sorry you were too blind to see that. TC mark

12 Truthful Marriage Vows You Won’t Hear At A Wedding

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 02:45 PM PDT

iStockPhoto.com / CoffeeAndMilk
iStockPhoto.com / CoffeeAndMilk

It's been six years since my wife (Tiffani) and I exchanged vows. Like most soon-to-be-married couples, we had an idea of what marriage would look like. We watched "chick flicks," read a few marriage books, and spent time with older married couples.

Looking back, I realize I didn't know much at all about marriage. The words I promised Tiffani at our wedding were idealistic and romantic. This isn't much different from the traditional vows you hear at most weddings. "To have and hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."

There's nothing wrong with these vows. But, seriously. Who really understands what they mean?

I know what you're thinking. Why do marriage vows matter?

Here's why. Vows are promises. But not just any promises. Vows are markers that guide your marriage. So, while I'm not against writing vows Casanova would applaud, I am against vows that are more romantic and emotional than practical and honest.

In a culture that idolizes romantic love, we don't need any more Shakespearean vows. We need vows that will shape and impact marriages.

Here are 12 truthful marriage vows you won't hear at a wedding.

1. I promise to never flirt, lust, or desire the attention of someone of the opposite sex.

When you get married, you vow faithfulness to your spouse. You vow exclusivity to them. You promise to never flirt, lust, or seek attention from the opposite sex. You promise to protect your mind from images that aren't your spouse.

You don't listen to music that degrades people. You don't allow your eyes to view images or watch shows portraying people as objects and relationships as indispensable. These are obvious, right?

But when you vow exclusivity to your spouse, you vow more than physical purity. You vow emotional purity as well. You promise to never confide in a secretary at work or be flattered by someone of the opposite sex.

Emotional purity is much less obvious than physical purity, but it's just as destructive. You must fight to give all of your emotions, your desire to impress, your attention, struggles, heartaches, and everything in between to your spouse. These don't belong to other people. Fight for purity, both physically and emotionally.

2. I promise to never expect a 50/50 marriage.

You can't keep score in a marriage. There's no such thing as a 50/50 relationship. That's a contract.

Give 100% of yourself every day. Some days, 100% won't be much. But on those days, trust your spouse will pick you up. Regardless, let go of this give-and-take idea.

Just give. Giving is the essence of love and the heart of the one who created marriage, God.

3. I promise to make the Gospel the mission of our marriage.

Most marriages struggle because the relationship is the end goal. The mission of most marriages is to provide stability to your life, to have a family, to have a companion. Get the idea?

But God created marriage, and because he created it, the goal is larger than selfish desires. The goal is to glorify him. Even in Christian circles, few couples make the gospel the mission of their marriage. And this explains why Paul said it was better NOT to marry (1 Cor. 7). Your interest would be divided between your spouse and God.

Your mission on earth is to serve God. Everyday. This mission doesn't change when you get married. But if you're not intentional, pleasing your spouse will take precedent over serving God.

4. I promise to love who you are today, not who I want you to be.

For the sake of your sanity and your marriage, please listen. You can't change your spouse. You don't have that power.

If this is your goal, two varmets will infest your relationship: bitterness and resentment.

For years, Tiffani and I tried to change each other. It wasn't until we stopped trying to change each other and started enjoying one another that we experienced intimacy.

One of the profound mysteries of marriage is two people with different values learning to love, flourish, and celebrate one another. It's not easy, but that's why you must rely on God and embrace the unique values He places in every person, including your spouse.

This sounds overly simplistic because it is…just love the person in front of you. Don't long for a "fixed" version of your spouse. Don't hope for a day when your spouse changes. Just love the current version of your partner. Doing this will transform your marriage.

5. I promise you will never be responsible for my happiness.

Marriage isn't a quest to find happiness or completion. God created you complete. You must learn to love yourself before trying to receive or extend love.

When another person is responsible for your happiness, you idolize that person. You obsess over everything. You check Facebook profiles, text messages, and missed calls. It's a miserable way to live. It's a terrible recipe for a quality relationship.

Be confident in the man or woman God created you to be. Then you will be free to love your spouse the way God intended.

6. I promise to make my expectations clear.

This was probably the greatest barrier in my marriage the first few years. Tiffani and I had expectations that influenced our decisions and shaped our understanding of marriage.

Tiffani's expectations for me were influenced by her dad. Tiffani has an amazing dad. I respect him. I've learned a lot from him. But I'm not Tiffani's dad. Likewise, my expectations for Tiffani were shaped by my mom. I have an amazing mom. But it's unfair to expect Tiffani to respond the way my mom responded. And these unrealistic expectations created a lot of disappointments.

Your spouse should never endure disappointments as a result of ignorance. State your expectations clearly. All of them. Be thorough. What do you expect from a wife? A husband? What does marriage look like to you? What does sex look like?

If you can't state your expectations, either because you don't know them or you're too shy to say them, it's a red flag that you aren't ready for marriage.

7. I promise to never say “I forgive you” unless I truly mean it.

Your spouse will hurt you and vice-versa. When this happens, search your heart, seek God, and forgive your spouse the same way God forgives you.

Don't forgive with conditions. Don't say, "I forgive you" when you're really storing your spouse's mistake to use as ammo in a future argument.

Unless you forgive the way God forgives you, completely and unconditionally, a wall will grow taller and taller in your relationship. Eventually, bitterness and resentment will make intimacy impossible, and your marriage will be nothing more than two roommates living under the same roof.

8. I promise to be for you, to encourage your dreams, to help you become the man or woman God created you to be.

Many days you won't feel like being for your spouse. But you must be for your partner if you want your marriage to grow. What does this look like? Here are a few examples.

  • You pray for your spouse.
  • You affirm your spouse's strengths and gifts.
  • You focus more on the positive aspects of your spouse's personality and actions than the negative ones.
  • You help your spouse pursue his or her dreams and talents.
  • You make your relationship a safe place for hard questions and deep conversations.
  • When you are for your spouse they open up like a flower, stepping into their relationships, workplace, etc. with boldness and courage. Is your spouse living with boldness and courage?

9. I promise to never complain about our marriage, in general, or you, in particular, to others.

God created marriage to be a private relationship between two people. In the social media era, virtually everything is available to the public. Privacy is viewed as stinginess, almost as though six billion people are entitled to full access of your life.

Don't buy the lie.

Your marriage is private. When you fight, your girlfriends don't need to hear your husband is a jerk. Your homeboys don't need to hear that your wife is irrational and ridiculous. No one, other than your spouse, should know intimate details about your sex life.

Don't publicize a relationship God designed to be private.

10. I promise to believe the best is yet to come, regardless of how good or bad things are today.

Regardless of the circumstances in your marriage, never spend more time looking in the rear-view mirror than the windshield. You must always believe the best is yet to come.

Why? God is a futurist.

He always leads people towards the future, towards the unknown. This forward movement is rooted in hope. Hope that the unknown is better than the known because God forges the path.

But here's the lie our world says: future circumstances are tied to current actions. So, if your marriage is miserable right now, it won't get better in the future. But the future isn't dependent on external actions. It's dependent on internal perspective.

In other words, you must choose to believe tomorrow will be better than today. If you choose this, it will be true, regardless of the actions of your spouse.

11. I promise to protect our marriage from outside influences, including kids, work, and in-laws.

Marriage is about intimacy, and intimacy requires time and exclusivity. Here's what this means practically. You must learn to say no. Go ahead and practice now.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Boundaries In Marriage, says, "A marriage is only as strong as what it costs to protect it."

Saying yes to outside influences means saying no to your marriage. You will hurt people's feelings. Your parents won't understand. They might even call you selfish. Your golf game might take a hit. Your friends will send you passive-aggressive text messages because you aren't spending time with them. Your co-workers might think you're uncommitted because you choose to spend a night with your spouse instead of working late on a project. Unfortunately, even your church might make off-hand comments.

I'm giving you a heads up because these are the costs you must take to protect your marriage. If you don't do this, your marriage will fail. And, trust me, it's must easier to implement this vow on day 1 of your marriage than several years in.

12. I promise to surround our marriage with a community of Christians who will encourage and support us.

I'm going to be real here. At some point, you will want to give up. I know what you're thinking. "Not me. I would never leave my spouse."

That's real sweet and all, but you're naive.

Marriage is crazy hard. Eventually, your spouse will wound you deeply, you will lose the will to invest in your relationship, or you will come to the realization that marriage is more work than you signed up for.

When this season comes, the line between giving up and pressing forward will be drawn by your community. If your community caters to your ego and feeds your "woe is me" attitude, the line will be easy to cross. If you aren't plugged into a local church, doing life with a group of Christians, the line will be easier to cross. If, however, you surround your marriage with a community of Christians who are for you, the line will be much harder to cross.

The presence of Christian community is so important that I ask those attending weddings I perform to make vows to the couple being married. After the couple's vows, the audience stands. Then I ask them two questions.

This couple have asked for your prayers and support as they begin marriage together. Do you pledge to pray for them as they work on building a deep and abiding love?

They will need determination and patience to cultivate their love for one another. Do you pledge to support them in every way as they build a Christ-centered marriage?

After each question, the audience responds with "We will." It's powerful to see the crowd looking at the couple, vowing to pray for and support them.

***

For too long, wedding vows have focused on emotional, romantic love and not practical, solid pillars. You probably won't hear these vows at any wedding you attend. But they're essential for building a marriage that lasts.

Six years of marriage taught me one thing. Marriage is the most difficult, rewarding, painful, joyous journey you will embark on. And when the storms of life come, a few well-structured, emotional sentences won't do you any good. You need something more practical. More realistic. You need guardrails to keep you from running off the road.

To my wife: I love you so much. Thank you for challenging me to become a better man, husband, father, and follower of Jesus. I love every day with you. I love every moment with you. TC mark

30 Short Affirmations For Everyone Who Is Ready To Stop Doubting Themselves

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 02:15 PM PDT

Richard Torres
Richard Torres

1. "I deserve all that is good. I release any need for misery and suffering."

2. "All is well in my world and I trade love and acceptance with the world."

3. "I release the need to prove myself to anyone as I am my own self and I love it that way."

4. "I know that I have the power to change; that each moment, each morning is an opportunity to try a new, different invigorating way."

5. "I am transforming into someone who always stands up for what they believe in."

6. "I accept myself for who I am without judgment or criticism."

7. "I relinquish my anger, let go of impatience and accept peace and joy into my heart."

8. "I forgive those who have caused me pain and believe I am capable of giving love as well as receiving love."

9. "I am worth loving. There is love all around me." — Louise Hay

10. "I am a cultured and wise and yet, a humble person."

11. "I am the star, it's about time I shine."

12. "I will live my life to appease myself, not others."

13. "I believe prosperity is possible in every area of my life."

14. "I replace 'I must,' 'I should,' and 'I have to' with 'I choose.'

15. "I inhale confidence and exhale fear."

16. "I have integrity. I am totally reliable. I do what I say."

17. "With each harsh word delivered my way I learn, grow, and expand with empathy, depth and wisdom so I can heal others with speed, focus and clarity."

18. "I am more than my past, my mistakes, my faults, my circumstances, my struggles, or my diseases. I am a magnificent totality of imperfect parts only beautified by my choices, bravery and impact."

19. "I will always believe in myself and my ability to succeed."

20. "Others look up to me as a leader because of my confidence."

21. "I don't allow the harshness of others or the world around me to harden the softness that lives inside me. It is my softness that helps to heal the world."

22. "Nourishing myself is a joyful experience and I am worth the time spent on my healing." — Louise Hay

23. "I now free myself from destructive fears and doubts."

24. "I am thankful for the ability to learn something new each day."

25. "There is always light at the end of the tunnel. That light is within me."

26. "I consciously release the past and live only in the present. That way I get to enjoy and experience life to the full."

27. "Wellness is the natural state of my body." — Louise Hay

28. "I forgive and cherish my mistakes, mishaps, slip ups, foul words and temper losses as items I needed to try on for size to truly understand what a bad fit they'd be for my mental, physical and spiritual wardrobe."

29. "I am perfectly imperfect. I strive for better while loving all that I am today. In loving myself today, I am better equipped to improve myself tomorrow."

30. "I know that fear is an illusion and I won’t let it paralyze me." TC mark

13 Questions All Solo Female Travelers Are So Tired Of Answering

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 02:00 PM PDT

Kristin Addis
Kristin Addis

Remember when you couldn't ignore how badly you wanted to travel anymore? You asked your friends, boyfriend, second cousin, and your best friend from third grade to go with you until finally you realized that if you wanted to travel you'd have to go it alone. Maybe those around you expressed concern or tried to talk you out of it, because the idea of a girl traveling on her own still, unfortunately, draws some skepticism.

Yet thankfully, solo female travel isn't as taboo as it used to be.

We're exploring the world in greater numbers year by year, challenging the status quo and proving, not only to others but also to ourselves, just how strong and independent we can be.

Unfortunately, there are still those inane questions that we solo female travelers always get asked, that I want to answer once and for all, so we can all move onto more interesting topics of conversation, alright?

Here are 13 questions just about every solo female traveler has heard:

1. Why is a pretty girl like you still single?

Because so many conversations with would-be suitors go like this…

2. Don't you have any friends who want to travel with you?

I do, but they have their own lives chasing advanced degrees, climbing the corporate ladder, and saving lives in hospitals. We each have our own dreams and our own life paths and just because theirs keeps them at home doesn't mean that I'm friendless.

3. Your husband/boyfriend/father lets you travel by yourself?

Ahem, nobody lets me do anything. I make my own decisions, like the freethinking adult that I am.

But depending on how aggressively and suggestively you're asking, he just might be around the corner, 300 pounds of solid muscle and ready to pummel you. I'm on my way to meet up with him now.

4. Aren't you lonely?

Each time I walk into a hostel I make five new friends, each time a local takes interest in why I'm alone, I get invited to a family dinner or a cool local ceremony. I have made more friends than I can count simply because I'm constantly meeting new people everywhere I go, and while there are some lonely times, they are few and far between.

5. Isn't it dangerous for a woman to travel on her own?

Enough with that bologna! These days I spend more time in countries that are statically safer by a long-shot than the USA, so by leaving home I am actually decreasing the chances of something sinister happening.

6. Really? You're not worried about being victimized because you're by yourself?

When I'm on my own, I'm hyperaware. My intuition gets sharper, and locals are more likely to want to take me in or look after me than to take advantage of me. Thankfully, I find that being a girl traveling solo is actually helpful rather than a disadvantage.

7. Don't you get bored?

It's impossible to get bored with constantly changing landscapes, and new smells, sights, and conversations on the daily.

8. How do you stay safe?

I just do the same things I've been doing all my life to stay safe and alive – I say no if a situation makes me uncomfortable, don't walk around alone at night, make sure that I familiarize myself with the safety situation in the cities I visit by asking the employees at my accommodation what to be aware of and what to avoid, and I dress according to the customs of the country I'm in to avoid unwanted attention.

9. Don't you get homesick?

Yeah, I do. That's a tough one, and the longer I'm away from home the more I miss those who have always loved and supported me. The great thing is I can always go home, and I can make it a priority to be there for the important milestones in my friends and family's lives. We all put in more effort to see each other when there are fewer opportunities and that's an unexpected benefit of traveling.

10. How can you handle living out of a backpack? I'd get so tired of the lack of wardrobe variety.

Honestly when you're having the trip of a lifetime what you are wearing and how great your hair and makeup look quickly fade in matters of importance. It's about the adventure first and foremost, and that's an even more beautiful thing.

11. Do you have boyfriends in every country? You must get around.

That would require way too much juggling and I don't have the energy! I get the opportunity to meet way more men than I would at home, true, but that doesn't mean I share my bed with all of them. And even if I did, so what? Ladies have every right to experiment, too.

12. How do you afford to travel like that?

Hard work, sacrifices, and savings, it's really that simple!

13. When are you going to settle down, have a family, and stop traveling?

This is my favorite question of all, because every woman should want to get married and have kids, right? I don't see 'settling down' as the end goal for my life. Maybe I'll get married and have children and maybe I won't. I do know that right now, what fulfills me is wandering and writing and if someday that doesn't do it for me anymore, I'll figure something else out.

Don't worry too much about me, I've gotten to know myself better than I ever did before I traveled alone. I've become so much better at problem-solving, negotiating, and tuning in with my inner voice and needs. When the time is right to choose another path, I'll know, but it's not right now, and it won't be tomorrow, either. TC mark

For more from Kristin Addis, follow her on Instagram @BeMyTravelMuse or buy her book A Thousand New Beginnings.

My Sad History Of Searching For True Love (And Finally Finding The One)

Posted: 26 Apr 2016 01:00 PM PDT

Wendy Liu
Wendy Liu

I never worried about falling in love when I was younger. I took it for granted. It was one of those things that would just happen to me without trying. So all my energy was spent studying and planning my career. I did fall for people every single day; the lanky boy at the pool, the captain of the school football team, the guitarist in a band I sang in… it just never felt like love and I was ok with that.

Hassan was my first boyfriend, we met in grad school and became best friends. I saw him through a break-up, he saw me through my struggle to find a career, my endless fights with mum and we saw each other through 3 years of growing up before we started dating. But it was never exciting. It wasn't what it was 'supposed' to feel like. My gut told me that I should be swept off my feet by a fantastic alpha male who was the life of every party and intellectually brilliant. This comfortable, boring, staying in and watching a movie on the couch could not be the great romance I had saved myself for.

We dragged it along for four years and finally called it off amidst long distance text fights and severe (albeit justified) insecurity on his part. I should have been shattered. My friends and family thought I was crazy, implored me to reconsider losing the greatest gentleman they knew. I hated being told that I would never meet a man who loved me as much. Of course I would, I'd show them!

Almost immediately I met Kevin. I had never imagined that I could feel such chemistry and attraction over a chance 90 second meeting in a hotel lobby. Something inside me exploded and I knew that my entire life had been constructed around the path that would lead me to this man in this moment. We couldn't get enough of each other; he would send me furtive emails while his girlfriend wasn't around and we would make plans to fly to another city and be together. I assuaged the guilt by convincing myself that a girlfriend couldn't stand in the way of true love.

We'd met during the interview for the same job and we both got it. The first chance we got to fly in to Singapore together – we did it. I had saved myself for marriage all these years. And just like that, at the ripe old age of 27, I gave myself to someone I barely knew. But it felt right, like we were going to end up together somehow anyway so none of this mattered.

He left his girlfriend and we moved out to the same city together. He made me laugh, the lovemaking was incredible, we literally spent days on end with no one for company but each other and never got bored. It was almost perfect – I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.

You know those lists you make – with the 3 must have qualities and 7 negotiables you look for in a man? Well – I had one for years. But once I got with him, that list was torn and burnt in a ritualistic cleansing fire. The universe had spoken. No matter that he was an atheist who had no relationship with his family and didn't believe in monogamy; I would rewrite my must haves to describe him. Only, I couldn't.

I learnt through two very painful years of broken promises, naked pictures of other women in his emails, no birthday phone calls or Valentine's Day dates that you can't pretend that it's working just because you FEEL something. Just because my hormones were out of whack for the only man I had ever had sex with, I thought with my heart instead of my head; my stupid little naïve heart. I remember crying myself to sleep, sobbing curled up on the shower floor, getting drunk and calling him with angry rants, hiding our dates from friends and family who had warned me to move on.

The heart wants what it wants though; and sometimes what it wants is unadulterated misery in exchange for a few special moments of love.
Finally, when I found out that he was on Tinder while abroad on a work project, I had enough. I was planning my engagement with the man of my dreams while he was shagging some random/s senseless. Needless to say, I was devastated. I took 3 months off work, packed my anti-depressant pills and went home to mom. I needed to regroup.

I was 30, successful, independently wealthy and single. But what about my gut telling me that Kevin was the one? That he would change? That this would last forever and I would prove all his detractors wrong? Turns out my gut is an idiot, just like my heart.

But wait – this story has a happy ending. When I went back home, I started to see more of Hassan (remember the first boyfriend?). He had stayed single for three years since I ended it because he always believed we would be together. He would come see me with no expectations, no questions and no demands. We would just hang, watch movies on the telly, get a coffee at Starbucks – you know, normal, boring, comfortable stuff. But I began to enjoy it and miss him when he wasn't there. Three months later, I had completely gotten over Kevin and asked Hassan to be my companion, my partner and my lover. And he agreed. Just like that, no drama, no conditions. I drew up that list again and he fulfilled 8 of the 10 criteria. I keep it handy now to remind myself when doubt sets in.

It's been a blissful few months, we are planning a wedding and I haven't cried for a boy in ages!

So what do I want all my beautiful, accomplished, single friends out there to know?

1. Make a list, check it twice.

2. True love is comfortable and unconditional, it's got your back.

3. Your heart and gut can be douches – refer to points 1 and 2 when in doubt

4. Remember when your mum said to marry a man who loves you more than you can ever hope to love him? She was right. Trust me on this one.

True love is magical and you're going to find it, just don't go looking in the wrong places. TC mark