Q: I was looking on my teenage son's computer and noticed that he's been looking at porn sites. I'm a single mom and just don't know what to do. I've talked with him about how damaging it is for him to look at these things and he continues to do so. How can I help him understand?
Juli: Many teen boys and girls (and men and women) are caught up in Internet porn. It's an epidemic. I know it feels awkward as a mom to talk to your son about sexual issues. But it's a discomfort you have to push past for his sake.
Begin by validating the fact that it's normal for him to struggle. He has a natural, God-given sexual drive, and that's a good thing! However, when that drive is channeled into casual sex or porn, it's harmful to him and others. There's a lot of shame associated with porn and teen sexuality. Don't pile on more. However, he needs to understand that porn is poisonous and evil. Many of the women used to make it are sexually trafficked, underage and exploited.
I recommend that you teach your son to play both "defense" and "offense." Insist that his computer and other devices have accountability and filtering software such as Safe Eyes or Bsecure.
Offensively, your son needs encouragement and training from other men on how to handle sexual temptations. Fortunately, there are many church groups addressing this issue. If you're already involved in a church, help your son get plugged into a youth group or a men's Bible study that can help him grow. It's important that he get a vision not just for what to say "no" to, but what to say "yes" to. Pray that God will bring men into his life to challenge him to be a man of integrity.
Q: How do I deal with a spouse who is a computer, TV and iPhone addict? He rarely helps with anything on evenings and weekends, leaving me to do everything. What can I do to motivate him to help around the house and to interact with his family?
Juli: For many men, technology has become a way to escape from the pressures of work and family life. You may be shocked to learn that 53 percent of all American adults play video or computer games. Add that to the hours the average American watches TV and checks email and Facebook, and you can see that this is a common problem.
It's much easier for your husband to tune out while at home than to interact or contribute to family chores. Nagging him about it isn't likely to help. Most likely, you'll need to be more intentional about getting his attention.
Start by asking to have a conversation with him. When you have his full attention, tell him how much you miss him and how it concerns you to see so much of his time plugged into technology. Tell him that while you recognize his need to unwind, you also need him to be more present in the home.
Then ask him to come up with some reasonable guidelines, like no technology during meals, no more than two hours in the evening, etc. If he's unwilling to do this, I'd insist on meeting with a third party, such as a mentor couple or counselor. This is more than a time waster. It can be a marriage killer, so treat it that seriously.
Q: My wife is a stay-at-home mom with our two young children. I don't think most guys realize how difficult it is to spend every day attending to the needs of little kids. What can I do to help shoulder the load?
Jim: Did you hear that? It's the sound of moms everywhere shouting "Amen!" You deserve special recognition for raising such a thoughtful question. Here are a few ways you can help:
First, when you come home after a long, tiring day, remember that your wife's day was equally long and tiring. There are two things she needs at this point: 1) adult conversation, including expressions of appreciation for what she's been doing, and 2) a pair of hands to pitch in and help with the kids, the dishes and so on.
Second, don't expect to be taken care of like another child. Pick up your own clothes and toys.
Third, don't expect much sexual response if your wife is exhausted and you haven't done much to help. As my friend, Dr. Kevin Leman, says, "sex begins in the kitchen" - with meaningful conversation, compliments and acts of kindness.
Fourth, get involved in the process of getting your kids ready for bed. This will result not only in relief for your wife, but quality time for you with your children.
Fifth, maintain a regular date night - a restaurant, a concert, a walk or whatever your imagination and budget can manage.
Sixth, if your hours at work are too long, make every effort to cut back. Don't fall for the notion that your career is more fulfilling than your life at home.
Finally, try to take your wife away for a romantic weekend once in a while, where her daily responsibilities are temporarily suspended. With planning and creativity, this need not be expensive.
Q: When we got engaged, I thought my spouse could do no wrong. Now that we're married, I realize that the man of my dreams actually has some very annoying habits. How do I deal with this?
Jim: It's normal to be annoyed with some of your spouse's habits. It's also common to discover that the two of you have conflicting personalities. But it is a couple's differences that can help them learn to complement one another and forge a relationship that will go the distance. The key is to work together to change the habits that can be changed, and learn to accept those that may take more time or may never change. Marriage helps us cast off the selfish acts and attitudes of our heart. We must learn to lay down our own desires for the sake of our spouse. It's a process of sanctification.
In an effort to coax change in a spouse, some people resort to manipulative measures. They leave books around in the hope that their partner will get the hint. Don't take that route. Instead, if you have a concern, assume ownership of your feelings. Voice them honestly and respectfully.
You also should ask yourself why you want your husband to change. Is it merely to make him more like you? Would this change make things easier for you while causing your husband to feel imprisoned? Or do you want to address behaviors that are genuinely preventing him from growing emotionally and spiritually?
Ultimately, nobody can change another person. The only person you can change is yourself. This doesn't mean, of course, that there are no limits to what's appropriate in a marriage: You should not tolerate physical aggression or abusive behavior. Still, in the case of smaller, less pernicious habits, it may be worth addressing the issue if you think the alteration would truly benefit both of you and improve your relationship.