Help! My Husband is a Sex Addict

If you suspect that your husband is a sex addict, you have come to the right place to get some guidance. If he watches porn on the internet and uses his phone to look at inappropriate pictures of other women, you may be wondering whether there is hope. The good news is that there is — and not just any hope, but the hope of God.

Recall your wedding day. Remember both of you standing on the altar and looking into his eyes as he was saying to you that he would be faithful and loving until the day he dies. I am sure at this moment you don’t feel that at all and that is okay. This article is not to persuade you about your valid emotions.

This article is written to help you understand that those vows are more important now than ever! Your husband has his issues, but where there is love, there is a way to overcome hurt. Here is insight into how we can help your husband out so that we can do our best to salvage your relationship.

If Your Husband is a Sex Addict: How to Help

First, why is he indulging in this? Have you ever heard of the phrase “Hurt people, hurt people”? This statement means that if I am hurt, then obviously I am going to hurt others. Does it have to be that way? If everyone who is hurting, hurts others, this world would be even more tragic to live in.

God doesn’t want us to hurt others just because we are hurt ourselves. Your husband hurt you. He hurt you because he is hurting. It’s easy to say that porn addiction is disgusting and absurd. However, in Romans 3:23 the Bible states that sin is sin. Meaning that there’s no sin that’s greater than the other. They are all the same.

That is a tough pill to swallow especially when we are hurt. We may think that when we are hurt by loved ones, that their sin is greater than others. The truth is that all sin is offensive, and all sin is equal. In my ministerial work, this levels the playing field between spouses so that there’s no self-righteousness.

Your husband did an awful thing, and we are hoping and praying that he can get help so that he can heal – the single best thing for a sex addict to do. If we keep yelling at him, telling him that he is a monster, that will not do much. We can beat people over the head about their failures, but we must take a more effective approach.

Secondly, your husband needs you to be his greatest support. God is there with you all. The human being that needs him now more than ever is you. You have been an outstanding wife. You are a great mom, you cook and clean, you help pay the bills and do the dirty work around the home. You have grown in sexual intimacy with your husband and given him your best. You didn’t deserve this – you deserve better!

So, should you just quit, get a divorce, and move on? Maybe. You should fight for your husband’s sobriety. He needs your help, and one way we can help him to do find out why he is engaging in this pattern. Giving up on him will only tempt you to sexual sin, tempt him to struggle with sexual sin as well. Ninety-nine percent of men struggle with sexual sin and whether they admit that they are addicts or not is another conversation.

Men in America engage in sexual sin on an almost daily basis. There’s online pornography, Tik Tok videos, social media, movies, magazines, commercials, other women flirting with them, etc. It’s everywhere. The battle rages on! Some men have been able to manage it well and are on a maintenance plan. Some are having challenging times and giving in. Some have good months and then have some bad months.

There’s no exact science to this. You need to know that most men struggle with this and are battling with it. That doesn’t excuse the behavior, nor does it make it okay to continue in it. The point is that we give up only to meet someone else who will struggle with that same thing. That’s why we need to remember our vows – in sickness and in health.

Your husband’s addiction is a disease. It’s destroying his self-esteem, mental health, and most of all his relationship with you. Who is going to support him now? I hope it’s you. You can be there for him to listen to him and ask him deep questions on why he is behaving this way. You can ask him what his childhood was like and about his first sexual experiences. That can tell you a lot about why he is doing what he is doing.

Men are called pigs and dogs for engaging in this behavior but are rarely called heroes in their homes when they are faithful. Husbands are working hard and trying to do their best to support their families, yet they get the least encouragement from their loved ones. They hear complaining and bickering which makes them want to tune out. The most common way for a man to tune out is to tune in sexually.

At first, it may start as an innocent crush or curiosity. Later, however, it develops into a relentless cycle of addiction that leaves them hopeless. Men need to be built up and encouraged for them to feel safe enough to be open. I encourage any reader to ask that question to see how your husband would respond. He may cry or he may get angry but that’s the point. He is feeling stuff and not dealing with it.

So, the wife can see that her role is to support him and be genuinely vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not yelling or venting at him. Vulnerability is exposing your deepest insecurities which then would breed more vulnerability on his part. He needs to do his part also. You aren’t going to save him. That is Jesus’ job.

He needs to be open with other men to get help. The best solution for men to overcome their sexual addiction is to have other men challenge them and get them on a plan. I’m sure you wouldn’t want a random woman to help him unless she’s a trained professional. With that in mind, I would highly recommend that you aren’t his only support for this issue. A minister, a therapist, a men’s’ support group, an addiction recovery group could all help your husband.

He needs to be open in those groups with other men who are battling with this issue. Too many times, the wife can turn a blind eye, or overexert herself, or simply complain, but unfortunately, it leads to little productivity. The true change will be when another man or a few good men talk to your man face to face about his problem. There may be resistance at first, opposition and whining about it, too.

The good thing is that if you keep requesting him to get help, he may eventually do it. What if he doesn’t? Then I would recommend you join a co-dependency group or a woman’s support group to get help. You may be thinking to yourself, why me? You are not responsible for his mistakes.

Your example will be super humbling to him. Imagine yourself telling him, “If you don’t want to get help then I will.” On Tuesday prepare dinner for you and the kids and I will meet with the ladies for support.” You don’t do it out of retaliation or spite, but because you are fighting for your relationship. He may hold his cards and remain tough. But while you are away, there will be no doubt that you will be on his mind. He will be humbled to get help.

Over time, he may give in and be curious about getting help. This step empowers you, but it also frees you from being a victim. You are not a victim! I will say it again, you are not a victim! You are a noble woman of God who is experiencing what many other women have or are currently experiencing in their lives.

That idea is freeing because some women lose hope that anything will change. The change will occur when changes are made. A tiny step can lead to an adventure. Someone must take the first step. Scary as it may be, it is necessary. Your husband may follow you because humility often breeds humility. Often, when the family takes a step in one direction the rest will soon follow behind.

If the worst happens, and he refuses to get help from anyone, then you have some choices to make. You can get advice from those closest to you on how to conduct a major intervention to get his attention. Some ideas can include, having friends visit him at the home, the family making a video for him, or individuals from your church writing him letters.

As a minister, I never would tell someone to leave someone but taking a vacation so he can marinate on his thoughts could also be helpful. Staying with your parents for a weekend could help wake him up. Please tell him beforehand so that he isn’t taken by surprise. That would not be beneficial. The time away may help awaken the true love you both have for each other.

Let’s do a quick recap. His sin is his sin. You are not at fault. You can be his biggest cheerleader through this tough time. You can be curious and ask questions about his childhood and why he could be hurting.

Hurt people hurt people, so try to figure out what he is trying to escape and avoid. Often, men watch porn because they want relief and gratification. It may not be that he doesn’t love you or find you attractive, it may simply be that he is looking for an escape.

Porn and sex addiction is a deep issue and needs to be addressed by other men so your husband can be challenged and held accountable. Sometimes interventions can help, and space is needed. All interventions should be done with respect and lots of guidance and support. Hopefully, these tips can lead you to a breakthrough in your marriage with your loved one! Don’t forget those vows! They are precious!

If you need additional help, please feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors listed in the counselor directory to schedule a counseling appointment. We would be more than happy to help.

Photos:
“Watching out the window.”, Courtesy of Taylor Deas-Melesh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tossed by the Waves”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Am I good enough?”, Courtesy of Hello I’m Nik, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Bands”, Courtesy of Sandy Millar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Looking for Love: How to Overcome Emotional Affairs

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Looking for love in all the wrong places”? It’s a phrase we throw around to our peers when we casually talk about a hopeless romantic who may be searching for love in areas where they will not find true love, such as emotional affairs. This idea of true love is what many are searching for.

Think about the following: fame, fortune, popularity, success, power, family, and so forth. Why do we want all these things? We want them because we want to be loved. Maybe we won’t admit it but at the end of the day, we work hard because we are searching for that endless love. There are some interesting proverbs in the Bible that support this.

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. – Proverbs 19:22

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? – Proverbs 20:6

Unfailing love is what we all want right? That comfort of knowing that your partner or loved one wants to prioritize you and to hold you dearly. We look forward to that warmth and affection with our partners because it makes us feel so special. I remember the first few dates I went with my wife Nicole how easily I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t help it.

My emotions and thoughts just overwhelmed me with this notion that I wanted to be with Nicole and no one else. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, holidays are all special because we cherish these moments with those we genuinely love.

The flip side to that coin also is that we want a partner who is willing to be tried and true with us. Forgiving one another, being patient, understanding, supplying encouragement and support are all aspects of when things aren’t as blissful. We prefer that our partners work with us during challenging times and not give up on us when we royally mess it up.

So good or bad, we want true love that overrides all situations. Those two proverbs aren’t there by accident. They are there to provide insight into how we think and to bring to the forefront what our mission is. Our mission isn’t to be right, or to amass wealth, or to be famous. The goal is to find the cherished love that is so evasive at times. The question is how are we searching for this love?

2021 will be a year of growth for many of us and I’d dare say that growing in our relationships is a very top priority for many of us. 2020 brought hurt and discouragement for many of us also. Addiction grew, domestic violence went up, many betrayals surfaced because the pandemic of COVID-19 exposed our true natures.

One of those exposures may have been emotional affairs. Some may have caught their partners watching pornography on the internet. Others could have wondered why their finances were disappearing and still others may have been that substance abuse was uncovered. However, emotional affairs may explain why you are reading this article.

Maybe you were the partner that was affected by a spouse who connected with someone online in an inappropriate way. Maybe your partner has a bad habit of being flirtatious with the opposite gender with certain staff at a certain establishment which pains you to see. Despite bringing it up you may get accused of overreacting.

Another possibility is that maybe you or someone who is in an emotional affair and you’re wondering if you’ve gone too far. This article interested you because you are at a crossroads in your relationship, and you may have ventured out of the boundaries in an emotional relationship and now you are contemplating on what you are going to do.

Lastly, you could be a friend of someone who is either a victim or a perpetrator and you want to help them out. I applaud you along with our readers for your noble heart to research and understand ways to help your friends potentially stay together for the long haul. Not sure where you are at in this, but you’ve come to the right place to get some extra resources that can help them lovingly and spiritually.

What’s Wrong with Emotional Affairs?

Why are emotional affairs wrong? I want to tackle this first because some may say “there’s nothing physical so what’s the issue?” Indeed, an emotional relationship may not include any physical involvement but there’s a reason it hurts our partners. When we enter a relationship, we may not show our deal-breakers upfront. So, some partners may think they can enjoy their relationship if there’s nothing physical with someone else.

It’s kind of a taboo thing but nothing that could have enough substance to become a deal-breaker. We may point out that the Bible says that the only three ways out of a marriage are death, adultery, or abandonment. As an evangelist in my church, I can agree with that. However, emotional affairs cause major disruption in your marriage.

Think about it this way, would you want someone to be with you at the altar ready to say, “I do” only to hear them state that they will only be faithful to you “99% of the time”? No one would accept that. We want our partners to genuinely love us 100% of the time. It would be insulting to have dinner with your spouse only for them to be daydreaming of some crush they have.

Emotional relationships are a matter of the heart and that’s what needs to be addressed. Jesus calls this out as “matters of the heart”:

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23

Jesus is calling out these physical issues, but he is addressing them from the perspective of the heart. Usually, perpetrators of emotional relationships state that they were reacting to someone else flirting or making advances. The perpetrator needs to understand that those boundaries aren’t to be crossed because something that has no strong boundary needs to be questioned.

We have doors in our home, locks on our windows, alarms for our cars, codes, and passwords to our computers for what reason? It’s to protect what we cherish. We protect what we love. If the boundaries are off, then we invite danger to our most intimate places and Jesus takes the ax to the root by saying that we need to look at our heart.

Adultery doesn’t just happen, it evolves, and these scriptures point out that it started within us. It could be why in the gospel it says that the most important commandment is to love our Lord with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. God wants all of us. He doesn’t accept partial love.

That expectation makes sense to me because I don’t want my wife to be thinking of some guy who flirted with her at the supermarket earlier that day. If we are having dinner, I want her to be present with me. We all want that. Should that situation arise, my wife has some great women in her life with whom she can be open about that temptation. She can seek input from women who will follow up with her and pray to God for her to be victorious in that area of her life.

The same thing goes for me. If I am tempted, I can call a brother in Christ who can listen and provide me with input so that I can tackle this from the beginning instead of it running ramped in my heart. Remember that these expectations are supposed to be high because we are searching for unfailing love. Our partners deserve to have us be present with them in mind, body, and soul.

Tips for Overcoming Emotional Infidelity

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a solid approach for confronting emotional affairs. A foundational core principle of CBT is that it helps us understand the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Anyone who is either a victim or perpetrator of emotional affairs should seek professional help to confront this at once to salvage their relationship.

A trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can validate your struggles from the start because they want to listen to your story without judgment. Does this mean that the perpetrator can be validated as well? Absolutely. As professionals, we are not here to take sides. Our goal is to provide you with tools to discover what is going on and work together to move forward in healthier ways.

Most Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in some form or fashion to provide CBT because it is one of the most widely used approaches for therapy. One of the main reasons it is widely used and accepted is because it deals with problems from the inside and out. Adultery is physical which means in CBT language that it can be labeled as an action.

But how would you go about an emotional affair? Can people just sweep it under the rug? Not with CBT. It can be classified as an emotional issue. The therapist would not just focus on emotions but would help the client process their thoughts behind their emotions and what actions they took.

With CBT it all works together. Not one part is left out. Interestingly, the gospels say that if we are to love the Lord then we need to do it all with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no shortcutting this process.

This approach is excellent for those who have been hurt by emotional infidelity because they feel the pain of being betrayed. They can explore those feelings and realize past trauma tied into the current hurt. The process continues as to what they are thinking and possible actions they can take to empower themselves. This is one of many possible approaches but in my work with hundreds of clients, I can’t think of a better approach.

Here are some tips to overcome emotional affairs based on the CBT approach that would include Thoughts, Emotions, Actions (T.E.A.) dialogue:

Thoughts

What thoughts are we processing? This is crucial to start with because so many times we rush to the evidence (phone, internet, talks, etc.) Once an emotional affair has been discovered, we need to ask both partners what they are thinking. One may think that the relationship is over. But is that true? Many people have different emotions, and they stem from what we think.

We don’t condone the affair, but we must try to listen to what our thought process was like to get to the root, recalling Jesus’ words to focus on the heart. The injured party should also voice insecurities, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, etc. The party who was emotionally unfaithful should be a great listener and confirm their partner’s thought process as well.

Remember this rule, if you do something or feel something, you must have thought of it beforehand. Unfaithfulness of any kind is not to be dismissed as a reaction incident. The mind played a role all along.

Emotions

What are we both feeling? What goes on inside of us internally is something to be appreciated. We love romance, zeal, and passion. Those same emotions can but in two ways because someone who is charismatic could also be a big-time flirt. So, we need to address our emotions and validate them further recognizing that emotions are tools and not weapons.

Validation by all parties, the partners, support, and the therapist are crucial. There is no such thing as crazy emotions. The betrayer should allow ample time for the hurting individual to gather their emotions and join in their mourning. This can be a painstaking process but one that leads to success more times than not.

Actions

The whole story must be told. This may sound unfair to the one who is betrayed but it is paramount that both spouses share their entire story of what happened without judgment. We don’t need to be sentimental with the party who committed the infidelity, but we need to understand what is going on in their hearts.

Sharing your story will cause discomfort but it will help the healing process the more times you share it. Get help and support. You don’t need to tell the world but view it as an opportunity to empower yourself. Recommit yourselves to one another, set up boundaries, and have weekly accountable times with your support system.

In conclusion, I want to say that no flaw is fatal. People who either commit emotional affairs or are betrayed by them can still recover and do well. We can make some terrible mistakes, but the grace of Jesus helps us during those crucial times. These are hurtful times but if we seek help and support there’s no telling of what incredible progress we can make as couples.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Paola Chaaya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “God is Love”, Courtesy of Hassan Saleh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Bay”, Courtesy of Charlie Foster, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Just Married”, Courtesy of Desiree Fawn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

5 Tips for Pursuing Christian Marriage Counseling

“A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.”Anne Lamott

It has been truly said that although marriage is a precious gift of God, it is, in the end, a union of two sinners. This sin – inherited from our First Parents and perpetuated by each one of us – brings trials and troubles into marriage that sometimes make it necessary to seek Christian marriage counseling in order to overcome.

In his book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Tim Keller writes, “While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears; humbling defeats and exhausting victories.”

5 Tips When Pursuing Christian Marriage Counseling

Consider these five steps to as you prepare to seek Christian marriage counseling.

1. Recognize that you can’t do it alone.

When you and your spouse experience marriage problems, the first thing to recognize is that you may not be able to fix it on your own. The help of the Holy Spirit, working through a professional counselor who is focused on the Word of God, will bring about change in your relationship.

Maybe you’ve already tried it solve your problems by yourselves and have gotten nowhere, or maybe you just find that the spark has gone out of your marriage and you want to rekindle the sense of closeness and intimacy that you used to enjoy.

Recognizing that your marriage is not what it should be and that you need God’s power to fix it is the first step toward healing. God’s vision for your marriage is higher and greater than you could ever imagine.

2. Recognize that marriage problems are normal.

Your marriage problems may seem huge. Perhaps you recognize the same issues rearing their ugly head time after time and nothing ever seems to change. Maybe it feels like the two of you are just incompatible, and you begin to suspect that you tied the knot with the wrong person.

This is common. Since we live in a fallen, sinful world, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Every marriage experiences stress or conflict of some kind for the simple reason that both spouses are sinners. Regardless of what you may be experiencing, you are not facing anything that has not been faced by married couples before.

Rather than end the marriage and begin looking elsewhere for love, however, this is an indicator that you need to turn to God in faith and let Him bring healing. In his book, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, Paul David Tripp writes, “One way God establishes beauty is by putting things that are different next to each other.”

Hiding your problems out of a sense of shame is a mistake. This is a fear-based reaction and is a common response of many Christians. They wrongly assume that church is only made up of couples who don’t wrestle with sin issues. Satan uses this assumption to keep couples in despair and isolation, preventing them from ever getting help.

Seeking help when you need it is always the best path. Of course, it will require humility and courage, and a conviction that there is something in your marriage that is worth saving.

Marriage is God’s invention, and because it is God’s intention that it be permanent, you should feel compelled to make the effort to save it. Many divorces occur because people didn’t seek help when they needed it but tried to do it solely on their own. As God’s Word says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).

If you are willing to humble yourself and ask for help, you will find it. Professional marriage counselors are available to come alongside you and help you navigate the minefield of marital issues to find healing and hope for your marriage.

Once you have decided to get help, you need to face the challenge of finding the right counselor. Though it may be an intimidating task, you will want to find a trustworthy counselor that is a good fit for you. There are a number of counselors who offer Christian marriage counseling, and it may be a tough job to sort through all of your options.

This article will present some wisdom about how to find and contact a marriage counselor.

3. Recognize the value of personal recommendations.

Though it may seem simplistic, probably the best way to identify a trusted counselor is through word of mouth. Who have others used? Who do they recommend?

Though there are no guarantees in life, recommendations from those you love and trust can be a real help. The likelihood that you will actually find and meet with a good marriage counselor is dramatically increased when someone that you know and trust has had a good experience with them before.

In an article entitled, “How Do I Find a Good Marriage Counselor?” Dr. Robert Burbee writes, “Talk to someone you know who has gone for counseling or psychotherapy. In many cases, the best suggestions about who is good in your community are from trusted friends and family who have been in the same situation themselves of trying to find a good counselor or therapist. These individuals can give firsthand observation about a professional and what to expect. And, they are giving a client’s perspective which may be the most important.”

4. Recognize the importance of knowing both yourself and your counselor.

As you consider selecting a marriage counselor near you, a good first step is for you and your spouse to reflect on yourselves. Think about what the two of you want to accomplish through counseling and what your hopes are for your marriage. It is also good to evaluate what you want out of life and what you expect from each other.

You should also consider what type of counselor would be a good fit for both of you. Thinking about these things ahead of time will help you align your goals even before you start counseling. If you are not on the same page as your spouse regarding your goals and expectations for counseling, it can reduce the effectiveness of your Christian marriage counseling.

Of course, counselors come in many shapes and sizes and the sheer number of specializations and licenses that they may hold can be dizzying. So, secondly, it is helpful to spend time talking with any potential counselor about what they specialize in and how they are trained and licensed.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy professional website, “Marriage and Family Therapists broaden the traditional emphasis on the individual to attend to the nature and role of individuals in primary relationship networks such as marriage and the family. MFTs take a holistic perspective to health care; they are concerned with the overall, long-term well-being of individuals and their families.”

It is a good idea to take advantage of any free consultations over the phone prior to meeting with a counselor in order to get to know them a little bit and get a feel for whether the counseling relationship is likely to work out. This gives you the liberty to ensure that you are comfortable with this counselor before you commit to anything long-term.

This is a good time to ask any questions both of and about the counselor. You can ask about their counseling approach, values, experience, training, etc. Make a list of things to ask, especially about subjects that will increase your comfort level. Find out if they are a Christian and ask what that means to them and how it affects their counseling methods.

This is critical since you are about to commit to a counseling relationship and whether or not it is successful will depend in large measure on the kind and strength of the relationship that you develop with the counselor you select.

5. Learn to trust your instincts.

Though we are often led to think that first impressions are unimportant, they are not always wrong. “Intuition” or “gut instinct” is an important part of who we are as human beings and though we should not rush to judge a person’s character when we don’t know them, our first impressions should not be ignored.

As you interact with any given counselor via phone, email, or in person, you should give thought to how they make you feel. Do you feel like they are really listening to you? Do they seem interested in you and your problems, or do they come across as disinterested or bored? Do they appear to be concerned enough to provide help right away? Do they seem confident and hopeful about your chances for positive change through counseling?

Marriage requires a lot of hard work and can be difficult. Anyone who says differently is selling something. Every married couple will experience issues at some point in their marriage and will need help. If this is you, contact a Christian counselor. They will provide the best care and counsel possible and will help you navigate the complexities of marriage problems and help you and your spouse get back on the right track.

References:

AAMFT (2018). About Marriage and Family Therapists. Retrieved from: https://www.aamft.org/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists.aspx

Burbee, R. (2014). How do you find a good marriage counselor? Retrieved from: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/your-spouse-is-not-the-enemy/how-do-you-find-a-good-marriage-counselor

Keller, T., & Keller, K. (2011). The meaning of marriage: facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God. New York: Dutton.

Tripp, P.D. (2010). What did you expect? Redeeming the realities of marriage. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Weiner-Davis, M. (2009). How to choose a good marital therapist. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/divorce-busting/200910/how-choose-good-marital-therapist

Photos:
“Hold on”, Courtesy of Neonbrand, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing Firm”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walkin’ in the Rain”, Courtesy of Juulzgrand, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Loving couple”, Courtesy of Medium as muse, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License

Helpful and Instructive Bible Verses about Relationships

God has designed relationships to be a safe, healing, and fun place for which we can fully express ourselves, fully serve and love one another, and fully glorify God. Because we live in a dysfunctional and fallen world, our relationships don’t always match the picture God has in mind.

  • Fathers abuse children.
  • Mothers abandon.
  • Brothers take.
  • Sisters scream.
  • Spouses dishonor.
  • Children rebel.
  • Friends disappoint.
  • Co-workers lie.
  • Bosses mistreat.

Yet in the midst of the pain and dysfunction, relationships are also a birthplace of beauty and can be an example of God’s love for us. They can be the very places we experience the depths of God’s joy, compassion, companionship, and more.

  • Fathers play.
  • Mothers stay.
  • Brothers give.
  • Sisters comfort.
  • Spouses respect.
  • Children obey.
  • Friends showup.
  • Co-workers uplift.
  • Bosses promote.

There is nothing more precious and rewarding than to have a friend or family member who knows you and loves you in all of your glory and faults. There is nothing more fulfilling than having a bond with someone so deep that he or she can finish your sentences, anticipate your responses, belly laugh with you in the middle of a store, and share in the joys and sorrows of life.

Some relationships can be easier than others. You might not speak for months and then pick back up exactly where you left off without a hurt feeling or missed beat. Others require effort, intentional knitting, and building.

From our family relationships to our marriages to our friendships, there are many Scriptures on relationships that can guide us to building a wonderful and enriching community of support and love.

Bible Verses about Relationships

Below you will find some helpful Bible verses about relationships, including verses about friendship, Bible verses for couples, and more.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2

In our relationships, God instructs us to be patient and to bear with one another in love. When you’ve been disappointed, when a spouse or child or mother or father sins, we’re asked to be humble, gentle, and bear with that person.

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. – Proverbs 10:12

When you’ve been wronged or severely hurt, it can be easy to hate that person. Hatred stirs up conflict and paves a pretty path for further hurts and wrongs to continue. Love covers all wrongs, even the worst, most unforgivable ones.

When God’s love flows through you, He allows you to love and forgive the people who hurt you. That doesn’t mean you’ll go on to have a really strong relationship with them or that a relationship will continue, but it does mean it can dissolve without leaving remnants of wreckage in your own life.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

“A brother is born for adversity speaks” to the role a brother can play in helping you persevere and overcome. A true friend will love at all times and that love may take the form of support or it may take the form of compassionate rebuke when he or she sees you’re doing something harmful.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:3

In relationships, the Bible tells us to do our very best to maintain unity and peace. We may disagree on a topic of topics, have different opinions, or interpret something in a different manner, but we’re to maintain unity as we navigate (or try to sort out) those differences.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” – Ruth 1:16-17

This Bible verse speaks to the beauty of commitment in relationships. Ruth would not leave her mother-in-law. She pledged to follow her and even went so far as to ask God to punish her should anything but death separate her from her mother. That level of commitment is inspiring and it’s also rare in this world. How often do we allow instances to separate us from the people we love?

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Genesis 2:24 addresses the bond that marriages are to be built on. A husband should hold fast to his wife and become one flesh with her. It’s a wonderful vision of the intimacy and closeness available to and promised for husbands and wives.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. – Romans 13:8

Imagine if all we owed one another was love? What a world that would be! This Scripture for relationships is a goal to strive for. Owe your friends and family members love. What it joy it will be for you to repay and for them to receive.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3

This verse is a great example of how we’re to act in our relationships. Every thought, decision, and action should be one of humility and one that values the other person above yourself. It can be hard not to make a selfish decision, especially if you feel like you deserve to be selfish.

You might have a list of “evidence’ supporting all the reasons why you deserve X, Y, and Z. You might also have a long list of “brownie points” that supports how great of a friend, spouse, child, etc. you have been. But, God calls us not to be conceited or vain and to value others even if we don’t feel valued.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

You don’t have to look far to see people bogged down with burdens. Society at large is stressed, anxious, and depressed. People have lost their jobs, spouses, parents, and children to death and division. In our relationships, we’re called to come alongside others and help carry their burdens.

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

In every relationship, we have a choice to destroy or stick close. Will our words, actions, and thoughts destroy or draw us closer? The Bible tells us that a real friend will not destroy, but will stick closer than a brother.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. – James 4:11

Friends and family members are not meant to speak badly about one another or gossip about each other. In our relationships, we can be honest and express our feelings, but we can do so in a way that it does not slander the other person.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

Relationships are meant to add to our lives on this earth. They’re also the very place we’re called to bring glory to God on this earth. We’re to glorify God in them and return praises that arise because of them back to Him.

Not all relationships in your life may be good or functioning as God designed. If you’d like greater support for an unhealthy relationship or want to improve your marriage or relationship with your parents, we’d love to help. Contact us or browse our counselor directory to learn more about our Christian counseling for relationships.

How to Find the Best Family Counselor for Your Needs

There are a number of considerations you need to make when you are looking for a family counselor that is a perfect fit for your family. The options can seem overwhelming, and it is important to know what you’re looking for so as to have the greatest chance of healing family issues.

One common reason why people are reluctant to seek out a family therapist is that they’re not sure what to look for in a counselor. Unfortunately, another common reason comes down to bad experiences in the past with counselors, which causes anxiety about having a repeat experience.

This article will equip you to make the right decision regarding a family counselor that meets the needs of you and your family. We’ll look at different types of family counselors so that you can make an informed choice, go over the qualities that make a therapist a good fit for your family and look at some of the costs of family therapy.

When Should I Start Looking for a Family Counselor?

A lot of people make the mistake of waiting until there is a crisis before they seek help. Usually, by this point, a number of failed attempts to resolve problems will have been made, and a considerable amount of psychological damage will be been done.

It’s important for you to know that you don’t have to be in crisis in order to approach a family therapist. In fact, it is better to seek out therapy while the issues are still in the early stages because getting help means that you’ll be able to learn skills to handle all the issues that come with family life.

Family counseling has been shown to help in reducing the severity of family problems, and even removing the problems entirely. Central to the success of family therapy is a counselor that meets the needs of all the family members so that every member is able to express themselves honestly during therapy sessions. To find the right family counselor you have to understand your family’s needs.

What are You Looking for in Family Counseling?

People enter family counseling for a variety of reasons and it is vital to understand why you are seeking help. It may be because you are struggling with parenting issues, having communication difficulties with your spouse, or want to support your child through the process of therapy. Some family therapists can address all of these issues, but many will have specialties in different areas, so are more suited to providing specific kinds of therapy.

Couples Therapy

Many people see couples’ therapy as something which married couples engage in when their relationship has already broken down. It’s seen as a last resort to save the marriage. However, couples’ therapy is not only for couples who have reached this level of breakdown.

Rather, couples’ therapy can help people in relationships whether married, engaged or just dating. One benefit of couples’ therapy is that it increases the level of positive functioning in the relationship. Some people only require a few sessions in which they explore effective communication, conflict management, and handling abusive behavior.

Behavior Intervention

This type of therapy is perfect for families with children who are struggling with relationships with peers or adults in the community, at school or having difficulties at home. Behavior intervention includes both children and adults in the family.

In this type of family therapy, children are able to learn about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Methods such as rewards, praise and consequences can be utilized. Parents are taught the importance of boundaries, and how to build appropriate reward systems, as well as other important techniques.

Family counselors will often ask parents to describe what happens before, during and after the child’s problem behavior, and use this information to find solutions that will modify the behavior of both the child and the adults in these three areas.

Parents need to be part of behavior intervention sessions as they can learn skills from the therapist that can be later implemented at home.

Parent Coaching

Parent coaching differs from behavior intervention in that this type of family therapy in that this type focuses on the parents’ behavior. Children may be involved in the sessions, but do not have to be present for parent coaching to take place.

Coaching is a means of developing the skills that parents need to be able to support their child’s emotional, physical and social health. Parenting skills such as effective discipline, boundaries, and communication can be hugely beneficial.

Difficulties Between Parent and Child

Relationship difficulties between parents and children can have a severe impact on family dynamics. Family therapy can be effective in dealing with issues such as disrespect and fights and arguments. Children with mental health issues or who are going through puberty may also be helped by family counselors so that more positive relationships can be forged.

There’s no doubt that raising children can be challenging, and because children are individuals, parenting techniques that worked with older siblings may not work with other children.

This can be particularly frustrating and make relationships between parent and child fraught with stress. Family therapy can offer a means of rebuilding difficult relationships and finding the right skills to deal with issues that arise.

Navigating Systems Involvement (CPS, Police, Schools)

People in crisis often struggle in various different areas of their lives, and this may include education, legal and child protective services. Having the involvement of these systems can cause confusion and raise even more difficulties. You may feel that these outside organizations are taking over and pushing you around.

If you are having trouble dealing with the involvement of outside systems, and feel that you are not being listened to, it can be helpful to consider accessing therapy from a clinical social worker. These specially trained social workers have the skills necessary to navigate systems, provide advocacy, and give you the kind of therapeutic support that you and your family need.

What is Important in a Family Counselor?

The most crucial thing to consider when looking for a family therapist is that they are someone with whom you feel comfortable. Every therapist is different in some way or another, and sometimes a therapist’s manner or approach just won’t fit well with you.

For example, some therapists have a kind of “tough love” approach, which might not work for you, but a therapist who has a gentler approach may be a better fit for you – or vice versa.

Knowing the type of personality or manner in a therapist that would best fit your family is equally important as finding someone with the right kind of specialized skills for your difficulties. It is helpful to read a therapist’s website and articles or blogs they have written, as these will give you clues to the therapist’s personality and approach to therapy.

When you make an appointment with a family counselor, it is a good idea to ask questions about their working methods and their practice. This, too, is an effective way of seeing whether the therapist will be a good fit.

If you have doubts about whether you and your family will be comfortable with the counselor, then remember that there are other therapists who will be a better fit. It may take a little time, but you will find the right therapist for you.

It is helpful to take into consideration the type of practice the counselor has. Some are based on religion, others focus primarily on children or adults. These considerations are important because they are factors that impact the way the therapist is used to working.

Faith-based practices can help by bringing faith into sessions, as part of the healing process, and this is not for everyone. Other practices that cater mainly for adults may not have skills in play therapy or involving children in sessions. Likewise, practices who work primarily with children may not have all the tools needed to work with adult aspects of family therapy, such as adult children.

Other Things to Consider

In addition to issues regarding the type of therapy and the therapist, you should consider the costs involved in family therapy. Family therapy can be expensive, but when you put it into perspective and consider the costs of other failed attempts at healing, it may not seem so expensive.

Therapy is a little like preventative medicine. Investing in therapy now can save a lot of expense and pain in the future. Therapy can also be made more affordable with a little knowledge.

Some therapists will bill insurance directly, classed as in-network providers. This means that they will take payment from you and bill your insurance on your behalf.

However, a lot of therapists will not take insurance directly, because there are high costs involved in their kind of business. They operate as “out of network providers”. This means that they will bill you for the session fee and give you a receipt. This receipt can be given to your insurance provider, and you will get back a percentage of the fee paid.

It is a good idea to ask your insurance provider how much they will reimburse you, and what limitations there are on what they will pay for. It is unwise to assume that your insurance will pay for your therapy and then find yourself in debt because your insurance won’t pay out.

An alternative to paying for therapy as part of insurance (if you don’t want to use your insurance or don’t have insurance) is to pay for therapy “out of pocket”, which is paying the therapist their fee each session. Rates can range between $150 and $200 a session. Fees do vary considerably, so it is vital that you ask your therapist their fee before deciding about therapy.

Many families will pay up to 25% of their combined income on therapy. This may seem like a lot, but don’t forget that therapy is preventative, and can substantially increase functionality in families.

Some therapists offer what is known as a sliding scale for people who may struggle to pay for therapy due to limited income. The therapist changes their rate according to the client’s income. Not all therapists offer this, and the amounts charged can vary considerably. Often their sliding scale will be based on things such as their business operating costs, and the size of their practice in addition to client income.

If you feel that you cannot pay for therapy or that private practice isn’t for you, then there are some non-profit agencies that will accept state insurance if you have it. Other practices may offer discounted therapy from trainee therapists who are not yet fully licensed.

Where Can I Find a Therapist Near Me?

Once you know the type and style of therapist that your family needs, you can start looking in your local area for a therapist that meets your requirements. If you want to find “in-network providers”, your insurance provider may be able to give you a list of therapists who bill directly to them.

If you’re looking for providers who accept state insurance, look for a non-profit in the area who may be able to help.

Photos:
“Family”, Courtesy of Laurel Harvey, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Engagement”, Courtesy of Duy Truong, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Ardanea, Morguefile.com, CC 2.0 License; “One big, happy family,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License

Having an Affair? Here’s How and Why You Should Stop

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks about ruining their marriage. So why is it that people have affairs? The underlying cause of infidelity often stems from the defensive structures people create as a reaction to trauma experienced in childhood.

To really understand what this means, picture a little girl whose father is not around most of the time, is authoritarian, doesn’t show any interest in her recitals, and whose mother is there but is always preoccupied with her own personal issues.

Although the father constantly tells her he loves her, deep down inside the girl has never believed him and though she knows that her mother loves her, it has never felt like enough.

As the girl reached her 20’s, she dated, fell in love, and got married to a man who had a similar personality to her father’s, and whenever he says he loves her, something inside her says it’s not real.

Several years go by and she is introduced to a man at work whose musical interests are the same as hers. She is even more tempted because she chooses not to tell her husband about it. Since the man doesn’t know her that well, his interest in her gets around the defensive I’m-not-lovable-structure, then she begins to crave his attention like an addiction. The affair has already started.

Sex by this point almost an afterthought. The attention of this not-loved-one comforts her hidden, desperate, ruined younger parts. Unfortunately, leaving her husband for this man means he will become a loved one and she will more likely have a relationship with another person again, and the cycle will go on.

This situation is just an example of the many defensive structures and narratives we all have.

The Power of Love

We are designed to bond with one another. When we experience attraction for someone, our bodies automatically respond as if there’s a possibility we might mate with them. Our pupils dilate, capillaries expand to increase blood flow, and our pulse moves quickly. It can make one breathless.

The reptilian brain is always trying to procreate. In Freudian terms, the id says, “I want that!” and the ego says, “I know how to get that!” The superego, on the other hand, says, “You can’t have that, because (insert moral reason here).”

If we live with an emotional lack such as in the above example, we can easily confuse lust for love. Actual love is a deeper connection formed by years of growing together with another person.

Erotic love plays a wonderful role in a marriage but erotic love by itself always makes a person even more lonely in every relationship. Once you jump from one intimate relationship to another, you won’t be able to receive true love from another, so you will automatically end up with what’s not real.

The Anatomy of Having an Affair

When motive fuels desire and opportunity leads to action, infidelity starts to happen. Just like any other sinful acts, people wouldn’t be interested in becoming unfaithful if they’re not getting anything in return.

To satisfy oneself sexually is not the only obvious payoff. Having an affair also tends to heal the wounded part of the self that encourages the behavior more than anything else. Another payoff is the thrill that comes with indulging in the forbidden actually building up the erotic energy in the relationship.

Sin is the opposite of good, and infidelity is the same. Similar to an addiction, for most people it only works for a while. As soon as it fails, the consequences come in the form of deep shame and guilt, hurting marriages, hurting children, and often the loss of jobs or homes.

Having an affair is a sin that can wreck whatever trust and happiness there is in a marriage. This is why it’s necessary to acknowledge infidelity before it spreads and causes any more harm.

Where Does Infidelity Start?

Flirting with someone else when you’re married is never harmless. More likely your sexuality is integrated into your personality making it safe for you to say, “It’s just how I am.” That doesn’t make it harmless.

Everything starts when you’re in a really difficult situation, emotionally vulnerable, feeling alone, and someone who looks attractive enters your life and makes you feel good, and you begin walking down the path. The best way to prevent infidelity is to stop it as soon as you start to realize that it’s happening.

Here’s another classic example of infidelity waiting to happen. A man works for an environmental company and has to drive for four hours to get to work and to meet up with his team. He’s already having trouble with his relationship with his wife and as if destiny tries to test him, there is a beautiful single woman on the team.

One afternoon, as they are having a great conversation, laughing at each other’s jokes, they look into each other’s eyes longer than usual. The man realizes that he’s attracted to the woman and he can tell she feels the same way.

That night the woman shows up at his hotel room door and asks the man to come to join her for a drink downstairs. At that moment he realizes he has to say NO right there and then, not when he’s already in the bar with her. There would be only one reason for that man to accept her invitation and that would be to dabble with adultery in the private hope of actually making it happen.

The man made up an excuse to avoid her and no longer communicated with her outside of work. Though the man thinks he will never be unfaithful, the chance of him engaging in adultery would have been exponentially higher had he gone with her. We are not just wired for bonding, we are also wired to want that bonding as much and as possible.

Our intelligence makes it possible for us to sidestep that wiring and avoid looking for something or someone beyond our marriage in order to meet our needs. Some suffer silently for many years while their relationship slowly declines and grows cold. Others cannot control themselves and end up finding comfort in other people’s arms.

Both of these results are terrible and God wants something much better for us. The traditional marriage vows that say “to have and to hold, to love, honor and cherish, forsaking all others.” is already a great reminder for us to keep. If you or your spouse doesn’t feel loved, honored, or cherished, it’s best to take action right away, probably through the help of a counselor.

How Do You Come Back After Having an Affair?

Infidelity is devastating to a marriage. If a spouse is not hurt by the infidelity then something is not right within the relationship and it could make a person think the marriage didn’t even matter in the first place. Since trust is a primary foundation of marriage, it’s extremely hard to restore once it has been broken by betrayal.

If the two of you chose to stay together after infidelity, a counselor is the best person to run to for help to find your way back together. Anger is a common and long-lasting emotion and while trust no longer seems possible, most of the time it will return, though it may take years.

There is no excuse for betrayal but understanding the emotional factors behind the action of the cheating spouse will help a lot – not in any way to cover up what was broken, but to be able to forgive an imperfect human being at the end of the day.

If you’re the spouse who cheated, it’s normal and proper for you to feel an overwhelming guilt for some time especially if you’re known to be a person whose values is big on faith. It’s going to be a painful recovery process and there is no way you can rush it.

It is unrealistic to expect your spouse to exhibit a desire for you, or to feel comfortable in your presence or to enjoy your company before they’re ready; there are some boundaries that you must not violate. They must decide when to restore you to fellowship.

This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you have no right to make choices or you don’t have a voice or can’t put in place your own healthy boundaries. It’s wrong to assume that it’s okay for us to be treated like a doormat and put up with whatever abuse our spouse inflicts on us. They have every right to display anger but not to become abusive.

As you navigate the process of recovery the following rules of engagement will probably benefit you:

  • Hold up a hand if either of you needs to pause the conversation.
  • Conversations that have been paused conversations must be rescheduled and pick up at the pause.
  • Counseling sessions are the best time to have most of your relationship conversations.
  • Each of us must be responsible for our own feelings.
  • It’s best to ask permission before talking using such questions as “Is this a good time to talk about _____?” “I wonder what would happen if _____?” “I’m detecting that you are (angry, distant, etc) and am wondering what that’s about,” or “Would you let me tell you my impression of it?”

It takes hard work to recover from infidelity but if both partners work at showing a great deal of compassion towards one another, learning to forgive, and holding on to each other to face a common enemy (rather than attacking each other), it can result in a much richer, deeper relationship than before.

How To Protect Your Marriage Against Infidelity

The truth is that no one is immune from committing a sin; we are flawed human beings. That being said, motives and opportunities can transform in many different ways thus, infidelity can happen in a marriage. However, there are a few steps you can take to strengthen your relationship and fight infidelity:

Keep God the Center of Your Marriage

Being married, whether you did it in a church or not, means you made a promise before God. He cares deeply about your relationship. Allow him to be in it. Ask for His help to love right, to be more forgiving, to fight your own selfishness, put up good boundaries, and be responsible for your own emotional struggles.

Take Infidelity Seriously

Pay attention to what your body does. If you stare at or talk to an attractive co-worker, or the spouse of your friend, or a single friend and notice your body is having a certain reaction to it (fluttering in the stomach, a catch in your voice, a desire to look more deeply into their eyes, or confide in them for connection), recognize that and admit it to yourself.

There’s nothing wrong in saying, “I think I’m really attracted to this person”; you don’t have to hide it from yourself. You can admit your attraction without feeling guilty. Remember, we are designed to be attracted to people and once you realize this, you will be able to respond by saying, “but I will not do anything about it.” Then correct your flirtatious behavior.

Have the Willingness to Set Boundaries

Setting up boundaries can be embarrassing but sometimes they’re a must. A professor once shared how a woman approached him after a presentation, gave him a hug, and pressed her whole body to his. He moved away from her and said: ”My wife is the only person who can hug me that way.” Now that may sound a little too forward for some, but it’s a great example of setting boundaries. It also inspires us to be more confident in defending the sanctity of our marriage.

Work On Your Emotions

Finding a therapist who can help you find an unprocessed emotional trauma in your past, identifying them, and finding out what you did to survive it is something you may want to consider doing. The more you understand your own emotional grid, the easier it is for you to change it, put up healthy boundaries, and build up firm, reciprocal bonds with the people you love.

Do The Work of Loving Your Spouse

One of the many great things about marriage is the sense of comfort we can get from the companionship of someone familiar. However, it becomes dangerous once familiarity transforms into complacency.

There was once a man who said that on his wedding day, he told his wife, “I love you. I’ll let you know if that ever changes.” Although what he said was meant to be a joke, it did, however, make a point. We find it easier to forget to do the little things that strengthen our love for the other person.

Recall the things that you both loved doing together and find out if it’s possible for you to do them again. Send cards, give flowers, and keep birthdays and anniversaries in mind just like the good ‘ol romantic days you both once had. Be thankful for the ones you love and remember the reasons why you feel in love with them. Rehearse the things that made you love them and rekindle them as best you can.

Learn to look at yourself and your spouse as an amazing, special reflection of God’s image here on earth. Value each other and the miracle of your relationship as well as keep each other while walking towards a future of growth and health.

Photos:
“Lonely”, Courtesy of Luis Galvez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Affair”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Drink After Work”, Courtesy of Sasint, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Fireworks”, Courtesy of Jared Sluyter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

8 Reasons Why Having an Affair is a Terrible Idea

People don’t have affairs because cheating is a miserable experience. They commit adultery because it’s temporarily exciting and pleasurable. Maybe their marriage seems stale, or there are a lot of conflicts.

Perhaps they feel like their spouse doesn’t really know or love them. An affair offers the illusion of feeling desired, alive, and escaping from the mundane reality of everyday life.

The problem is that affairs don’t happen in a vacuum. There are considerable risks involved for disgrace and devastation. And in the end, the affair is almost always exposed somehow. This private disaster becomes public, and countless people are affected.

8 Reasons Why Having an Affair is a Terrible Idea

Often people find themselves entangled in an emotional affair that’s on the verge of becoming physical. You can still stop before you take it to that next step. If you’re already involved in an affair, the sooner you end it, the better. Here are eight things to think about before you let an affair wreak havoc in your life.

#1 – You Will Cause Enormous Pain

People who have been cheated on often say things like, “I feel like someone ripped out my heart and stomped on it.” There’s a reason for these colorful metaphors. Being betrayed by the one you love and thought you would spend the rest of your life with causes agonizing emotional pain.

People who have been betrayed by their spouse experience tormenting heartbreak. The emotional pain can be unfathomable. Causing someone that kind of pain shows true hardness of heart. It doesn’t matter if you blame it on alcohol or say that it didn’t mean anything. Thoughtlessness is just as cruel as deliberate malice.

Although you may be able to save your marriage, it will never be the same again. No matter how strongly you feel about this illicit connection, acting on those feelings demonstrates a brutal disregard for your vows and the person you promised to honor and cherish until death.

#2 – Your Children Will Suffer

An affair plants seeds in a family – seeds of anger, distrust, grief, and jealousy. Those seeds will grow and take a lot of work to root up.

Even if your children don’t know what’s happening, they’ll sense the shaky foundation of your marriage. Your marriage should be the solid rock on which you can build your family. An affair cracks the foundation of the family, no matter what excuse you make for it.

Your children may one day have difficulty trusting their own spouses. Or they might think adultery is justified in some situations. After all, children tend to normalize their parents’ behavior.

You might think that no one will know – that if you keep it a secret, no one will have to reap these consequences. But the bonds we have with our loved ones run deep. When you violate your marriage, you poison your soul because deep down inside, you think you deserve the affair. This poison will inevitably express itself in disdain, guilt, and words that even if they seem subtle to you, your children will be affected by it.

#3 – Your Extended Family Will Be Affected

When family members get divorced because of irreconcilable differences, it causes pain, but people do understand that some marriages are full of conflict and difficulty and don’t work out. Often, spouses can achieve a relatively amicable divorce that doesn’t cause huge rifts in the extended families.

But when adultery is involved, emotions run high and many relationships can be destroyed. If you value your relationship with your in-laws or even just their good opinion, know that you will probably be destroying both once your affair comes out.

#4 – Your Friendships Will Suffer

Friends often choose sides when adultery is involved, including mutual friends, coworkers, and church friends. Most will tend to gravitate toward the spouse who was betrayed, not the offender. Your social relationships and support system can be irrevocably damaged.

During the excitement of an affair, you’ll probably disregard this, but months and years down the line, isolation and rejection can have devastating effects on your mental and emotional well-being.

Anyone who finds out about your affair will probably wonder if they can trust you, and rightly so. If you demonstrate that you disregard your most sacred vow, how can anyone else trust you? People may understandably view your character as inherently flawed. You may lose friendships, ministry opportunities, and even opportunities at work if your boss knows what happened and has high moral standards.

#5 – Your Church Relationships Will Suffer

People at church will also tend to be polarized by your illicit relationship. If you are a ministry leader or participant, you may be asked to step down as you deal with the fallout of your decision to commit adultery. Most people will likely side with your spouse, not you.

Your reputation will be severely impacted, probably permanently. You’ll lose the trust and respect of people you value. Even people who love you unconditionally will be hurt by your behavior. Churches have also been known to split when a leader becomes involved in an affair.

#6 – Your Self-Respect Will Be Damaged

Before having an affair, you probably talked yourself into it using a series of excuses as to why it was okay. Maybe you thought, “If no one knows, it won’t hurt anyone,” or “I deserve to feel good about myself for a change.” Maybe you were bitter towards your spouse for things they’d done (or hadn’t done), so you considered your affair to be justified.

Underneath all the excuse-making, though, you know that adultery is wrong. If you’re a believer in Christ, you also know that it’s a very serious sin. You know you’ve broken your vows and devastated the one person on earth you vowed to honor and cherish.

No matter how you attempt to write the narrative, you are the antagonist in the story. Trying to justify your actions mentally will only create cognitive dissonance. Believing a lie can eventually lead to more delusional thinking, which damages your psyche over time.

#7 – Your Relationship with God Will Suffer

If you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit will convict you of the sin of your affair. Adultery is one of the sins most clearly condemned by Scripture. God hates sin because it goes against his holy nature.

When you choose to have an affair, you’re rejecting God’s commands in favor of your own selfish desires. Continuing down that road will provide you with fleeting pleasures, yes, but also with soul-crushing, long-term heartache. If you love the Lord and want to follow his plan for your life, why would you choose such a devastating path?

#8 – You Made a Covenant

It’s likely that your marriage took place in a church with witnesses present, such as your family and friends. You made a vow to love, honor, and cherish your spouse and forsake all others until death parts you. There’s a reason marriage vows are made in front of God and witnesses. They are profoundly significant and the most important promises we will ever make.

Breaking your marriage vows is violating the public, sacred covenant you made with your spouse. That’s why divorce has to take place through the court system. It’s not a trivial matter to betray your spouse. Your vows are meant to be guarded. There’s no such thing as a harmless affair.

The Reality of Adultery

No one just wakes up one morning and arbitrarily decides, “I’m going to have an affair.” Most of us have internal inhibitions against cheating. What happens is that we take one seemingly harmless step at a time, and before we know it, we’re entangled in adultery.

You start talking with an attractive coworker every day in the break room. You find out you have things in common. You begin to make extended eye contact and share your feelings and hopes and dreams. You find yourself thinking about them throughout the day, and hoping you’ll bump into them again. It becomes a growing attraction, and you can either cultivate it or shut it down.

Having struggled in your marriage is no excuse for cultivating an attraction to someone else. It may increase your temptation, but it doesn’t make it okay. No one can cause you to have an affair. It’s your own moral decision, no matter how unloving, unkind, or disengaged your spouse may be. There are other decisions you can make to handle problems in your marriage rather than committing adultery.

Even once you’re in the middle of a tempting situation, you can always make a decision to run away from it before the point of no return. Affairs are not accidental. Leading up to the temptation, you’re either cultivating loyalty to your spouse, or you’re stoking the fires of illicit desire.

If you have strong feelings for someone other than your spouse, now is the time to act. Don’t try to sweep it under the rug, think that’s it’s not a big deal, or that you can handle it on your own. Talk to a counselor, talk to your spouse if you need to, and most of all, stop the growing attraction by bringing it from darkness into light.

If you’ve already crossed the line and started an affair, confess it to your spouse and begin the arduous process of recovery. Bringing this sin into the light will be one of the most challenging things you’ve ever done but living a life of integrity and openness is far better than living one of secrecy and deceit.

Your spouse will be angry and devastated. This is normal. Don’t be defensive. Apologize, but know that that won’t be enough either. If your marriage can be saved, counseling will be absolutely crucial to the process.

If you believe that your marriage is over and you want to be with your affair partner instead of your spouse, at least have the decency and respect to put your affair on hold until you can end your marriage officially. You can’t keep your spouse and an affair partner happy while you secretly try to juggle both “relationships.”

Acknowledge your selfishness and sin and the pain that your choices have caused. Actions have consequences. Infidelity needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Acknowledge your personal feelings, and then consider the impact your actions are having on yourself and those around you. Find a therapist who can help you take the first step toward restoration.

Photos:
“Secrets,” courtesy of Ivan, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Dad’s Day Out,” courtesy of Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright, Flickr Creative Commons; “Pray,” courtesy of pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “The Waiting Game”, Courtesy of Louis Blythe, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Try Christian Marriage Counseling

Marriage is a wonderful blessing from God. Sharing life with your spouse can bring incredible joy and fulfillment. But anyone who is married will tell you that it is not always easy. Communication breakdown, resentment, or even infidelity – all too often, marriages can go very wrong.

One of the most effective ways of dealing with problems in your marriage is to see a marriage counselor. This is, of course, easier said than done. Indeed, those who are going through a difficult period in their marriage may be reluctant to start opening up to a stranger about it! Plus, many believe that “it just won’t work.”

Does Christian Marriage Counseling Work?

In most cases, Christian marriage counseling has proven to be extremely effective. It provides the opportunity for both parties to communicate their particular feelings and concerns and is all facilitated within a neutral and safe environment. With that being said, there are arguments for and against marriage counseling, so let’s take a look at a few.

Arguments for Christian Marriage Counseling

1. A Mediator is Helpful

Often, by the time you decide to seek out help for your marriage, communication has completely broken down. You may find that any discussion on the serious issues in your marriage ends up turning into an argument.

In these instances, a mediator may be extremely helpful, as they can act as a referee and a sounding board. A mediator will keep the conversation on the right path and will ensure that the discussion remains constructive. When working on a marriage in crisis, it is of the highest importance that the two people are able to hold a good and fair discussion on the issues that have divided them.

2. You’ll Gain Fresh Perspective

When a marriage hits a rough patch, it is often a result of a breakdown in communication. You may find yourself stuck in a pattern of unhealthy behavior toward your spouse, with no idea of how to change it for the good.

Seeing a Christian marriage counselor can help you both gain a fresh perspective and can assist you in dismantling some of the emotional walls that have been erected as a result of the poor health of the marriage.

3. It Encourages Hope

When you find yourselves stuck in a difficult marital situation, it can become very disheartening. After years of struggle, emotional turmoil and pain, it is easy to begin to feel hopeless about the situation. Making a marriage counseling appointment is an important step for you to take as a couple. You are, in effect, declaring that there is hope and a future for your marriage, and you are taking the joint decision to work on things together.

4. Overcoming Hardship Together Often Improves Bonding

When you make a conscious choice to seek help as a married couple, it signals a pivotal moment in your relationship. Though counseling will never be easy, it is the commitment to a better marriage that is the most crucial aspect of seeking additional assistance.

Plus, as you start to sort through the issues that have been holding you both back, you will develop a stronger bond. As you begin to see your marriage improve, you will be thankful for each other’s devotion to the process.

5. The Harder Path is Often the Better One

Of course, we all want to take the easy route sometimes. Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage, it is often the hardest path that yields the most fruitful results. The same applies to marriage counseling. It is not easy, but it can help you transform your marriage into a loving and stable relationship.

It can be tempting to keep going through the motions of marriage even though you are in a terrible place, but this is dangerous. Get honest, own the issues, and get plugged in to some counseling.

6. There’s A Lot at Stake

Marriage is a God-given gift. It is a sacred commitment between two people and the most stable environment in which to raise a family, so when a marriage fails, the fallout can be huge. It goes without saying that the emotional damage to kids can be enormous when their parents split up. Extended family bonds may also become strained.

It is critical to keep your marriage at the top of your list of life’s priorities and to seek out help when it is required. If you choose to go your own way, you will regret the immense damage it causes to your spouse, your family and those closest to you.

Arguments Against Christian Marriage Counseling

While engaging in Christian marriage counseling is very rarely a poor choice for a struggling marriage, it can sometimes be the wrong choice for a couple. The right emotional state, the willingness of both parties and a large dose of patience is required. If these are not present, it might not be the right time to embark on a counseling journey.

Here are a few things that might give you cause to reconsider whether or not it is the right time for you to engage in Christian marriage counseling.

1. Both Spouses Have to Be (or Become) Committed

In the beginning, it is not uncommon for one or both spouses to feel reluctant to engage. Like ripping off a band-aid to expose the state of what lies beneath, it can be difficult and painful! This usually improves once the couple starts to see and experience the benefits that counseling is having on their marriage.

However, if one spouse has pressured the other into attending, and if they have absolutely no desire to be there, it can do more harm than good.

If a spouse is completely resistant to making any changes, Christian marriage counseling can become ineffective and incredibly frustrating for the willing party. Both individuals need to be keen for it to work.

2. Sometimes it’s Too Late

Unfortunately, sometimes things are just too far gone for counseling to have any positive effect on the relationship. When communication has deteriorated to the point of insults and bitterness, it may be impossible to recover through counseling, unless the two spouses desire change.

If neither person can recognize any potential good in the relationship, and if they have zero vision for the future, it might not be helpful to hash it out any further in counseling. Having said this, we believe (and have seen!) that God can do mighty and miraculous works, even beyond what we could have imagined. Better to give it a try than to doubt what God is capable of doing.

3. Spouses Must be Willing to Change

If one spouse is involved an extramarital affair and wants to come to counseling, but is reluctant to give up the illicit relationship, no progress will be made. The same applies to any sort of addictive behavior that is having an adverse effect on the marriage.

Of course, we are all fallible human beings who mess up on a daily basis, but the individual must be willing to change – that is the most important thing. If they have no intention of changing their ways, counseling is likely to be a waste of time.

4. Individual Issues Must Sometimes Take Precedence

If one of the individuals involved in the marriage is dealing with serious emotional trauma from before or during the marriage, their well-being must be prioritized. They may be going through something that requires individual therapeutic work.

In this case, jumping into couples counseling could be detrimental to the marriage. The couple may decide to attend joint therapy once the person is in an appropriate emotional state to do so.

5. Know Your Own Limitations

There may be certain personal struggles that are preventing you from attending counseling. Perhaps you suffer from crippling anxiety at the thought of sitting down with a stranger and revealing your deepest secrets. But in the right setting and with the right therapist, a comfortable environment can be created. Some people are simply averse to receiving help and advice – but that always comes down to personal choice.

6. Find the Right Marriage Counselor

It is incredibly important to find the right “fit” when it comes to your counselor. You must be wise when seeking out someone to help you deal with the deepest issues in your marriage. It must be someone who you feel comfortable with, who has the required experience, and who you can be completely honest with.

Chrisitan marriage counseling can be an incredibly effective form of therapy for couples who are on the brink of splitting up. With the right attitude, and with the help of a well-matched therapist, marriages can be restored and renewed. If both individuals are committed to the healing of their marriage, we believe it can be done!

Photos”Trouble”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Golden hour,” courtesy of photo fiddler, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0 License; “Conversation,” courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Window pain,” courtesy of unsplash.com, pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License