3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

You are here because you want to save your marriage? Good for you! We are proud that you are not giving up so easily as many others do. The divorce rate is steadily increasing to 60% in many parts of the U.S. and sadly those are the ones that are being reported.

For example, my wife’s parents want a divorce, but they can’t afford it, so they have just agreed to separate. Their hearts, though, are divorced. There are many couples like that and despite the sad reality, we offer you a fresh way to look at your marriage in hopes to help you retake back that amazing relationship that God destined you to have!

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

There are three C’s that we will be covering today: Compatibility, Compromising, and the most powerful one, Complimentary. These three stages of relationship maturity can help put some perspective to see where you are at in your marriage to see what is next for us to move on.

Sometimes having perspective can guide you in a gentle practical way that disarms both partners instead of having to make one of you the villain and the other the hero. My perspective has always been not to make one person the terrible monster but to understand the other person’s upbringing and what has transpired throughout the relationship that has aided both partners to be who they are today.

If there has been infidelity or betrayal, we don’t excuse that behavior by looking away. We confront it and deal with it so that there can be a resolution between both spouses, where appropriate. The 3 C’s are designed to help the partners in a relationship start a dialogue that will show them how they can move together to the next step.

Compatibility

Compatibility is a nice start to any relationship because it’s about sharing common interests. I’m sure both you and your partner were mutually attracted to each other. You both shared great moments that bonded you together.

Many couples love hiking, dancing, watching movies together, traveling, working on projects, they love pets, they have strong academic values, they want kids, they don’t want kids, etc. They have a common sharing that defines who they are that joins them together.

The riff between compatible people is when the sharing runs out. One spouse may like sports and that spouse may choose to watch ESPN instead of going on a date with their partner. That can cause tensions that turn into arguments. That same couple will then argue because the same spouse who loves watching sports may now want sexual intimacy but the spouse who was neglected will feel distant and say that they are tired.

By now I’m sure you see that these issues can slowly begin to turn a marriage into a rusty and withered relationship. How can compatibility save your marriage? This can save your marriage because you can talk to your spouse about how both of you had a great start but how you need to move forward. The start needs to be celebrated. Reflect on the enjoyable times you had together which will help you both to bond again.

It’s hard to stay angry when both of you reminisce about awesome times that both of you had. This can disarm the angriest of spouses and turn their cynicism to hope. Compatibility is not the complete answer, however, because no couple on this planet relies only on compatibility.

There will always need to be a sacrifice made to support the other spouse. Unfortunately, many couples end their relationship right at this step and don’t move beyond because the differences separate them to the point of no return. The good news is that it doesn’t have to end here and that it can mature and move on.

Compromising

We need to humble ourselves sometimes with big decisions so that as a couple we can mutually benefit. This is a noble perspective and helpful for compatible couples to understand. My wife and I use to argue about our dates which ended up ruining some of our Saturday nights. We made a pact to alternate our dates by giving each other two dates per month for us to coordinate.

When it was my turn, I would love to go to an open mall, eat some spicy food and then go see an action movie. Not the most romantic I know. When it was my wife’s turn, we would go to the beach and then eat dinner at sunset which was definitely romantic. We were able to learn about each other and appreciate how the other loved to have fun.

We learned to compromise which helped us to grow in our relationship before it got stale. Maybe your relationship is stale at this point, and it needs some saving. Most couples may be at this stage, which is a great step to be on, however, sometimes there are betrayals and hurts during this stage and we must compromise to make the marriage work. Many couples are in this stage because they have been dating and been married for years.

If you have suffered pain because of your spouse or both of you are in deep stuff my heart goes out to you. I want you to feel validated and supported by this article which may spark a talk between you and your partner to talk about this stage. You can talk about how you have compromised in certain areas in your relationship which can then uplift the marriage in its strengths.

A positive tone will help a lot with communication because it can win someone over. The main issue with the stage of compromise is that it can take you far but not all the way. It’s great to compromise however, one spouse may get burned out if they don’t have the constant refreshment.

Hebrews 3:12-13 says that our hearts need daily encouragement to remain soft. If we aren’t open and don’t encourage one another then it will take only a day to harden our hearts. Compromising also begs the spouse who is constantly sacrificing to request love in return. I sure feel that way when I sacrifice for my wife. If I help her with the home or take care of the car, I can expect favors in return.

However, she may not be so ready to return that love the way that I expect. I confess that it hurts, and I feel resentment in my heart, so I become quiet and resistant. It happens the other way around too. My wife may help me out with m projects or take care of responsibilities in the home and then she can expect me to be grateful for her efforts. Sometimes I don’t notice which hurts her and I let her down. Compromising is a great stage to be in, but it won’t be the stage to save your marriage.

Complimentary

I don’t mean complimentary as in saying compliments to your spouse. All though I highly recommend that you verbally compliment your partner to lift them up. I can testify that verbally complimenting my wife has helped our marriage so much. My wife feels acknowledged and honored in our home. You can never go wrong with that.

However, the real meaning of being a complimentary couple is being a couple who helps elevate each other. This perspective and lifestyle will save your marriage. It takes both of you, no matter the past or present, to get this right on point. One spouse trying this out may not get it done but it’s a start.

After a few weeks if you don’t see a change in your spouse please reach out for help. Therapy, couples’ groups, church retreats, classes, training, support groups, group dates, being ministered by a shepherding couple in your church, all these things can help support you and your spouse.

Before I get derailed, let’s go back to what a complimentary couple looks like. That couple is first willing to help and initiate help. This is a stark contrast to Compromising (the second of the 3 C’s), because with Compromising you must sacrifice. Most times, when we sacrifice, we aren’t willing. We sacrifice out of nobility or necessity. We may be talked into it or discipled into it. It’s not from our willing hearts.

Most of us sacrifice begrudgingly and hope for the best. With this last C, the Compromising couple serves and helps each other so that the couple is elevated. They are thinking “How can I help my spouse so both of us succeed?” This is an amazing perspective because both partners will feel inspired by the other to the point where both are going to try to outgive themselves in a healthy way.

Think about that vision for a moment. Both spouses work together to help elevate each other. What kind of marriage do you think they’ll have? It won’t be just a surviving marriage; it will be a thriving marriage! This is the secret to saving your marriage. Both of you must sit down, most likely with another couple, and process this vision to help both learn to inspire each other. This cannot be done alone. Both partners must work together so both of you can prosper.

Remember that none of these stages are bad. They are all good. The point of this article is to prepare you to have a fruitful discussion with your spouse about where both of you are. You may be tempted to think that both of you are in different stages. Please remember that it’s both of you together. So, both of you would be in the same stage.

Maybe one of you is ready to move on, but I strongly encourage that spouse to slow down and wait for the other spouse to catch up before moving on. This way doing the stages together will help the other spouse feel loved by you and ready to move forward. Once you identify which stage you are in then you will be ready to discuss how to take the appropriate steps for the next one.

The process of the 3 C’s will help disarm both of you and help ensure that you are taking the same steps onward as a couple. Have another couple walk with you in this way so that you have accountability and support if there are any riffs between you. My deepest conviction is that if you give the 3 C’s a try, it can show you where you are and help you see where you want to go. And that’s to be the best marriage you can be!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.Ephesians 5:21-33

Christian Marriage Counseling

If you’re looking for additional support, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory to schedule an appointment. It would be my pleasure to meet with you to help you not only save your marriage, but to strengthen it beyond what you’ve experienced before.

Photos:
“Coffee and Conversation”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Eye to Eye”, Courtesy of Andriyko Podilnyk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Devotions”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kissing”, Courtesy of Mauricio Livio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Premarital Counseling for Today’s Generation

Many couples are reflecting on how 2020 went for them and wondering how 2021 will treat them. We noticed a boom of weddings in 2020 despite the pandemic. This encouraged many to get engaged and to hopefully get married in 2021. We may wonder why people are getting married, and it could be as simple a matter as singles and dating couples being tired of living alone.

The pandemic has brought many issues to the surface such as depression due to constant isolation and anxiety when alone. Autophobia is the fear of being alone and is especially difficult the older you are. Undoubtedly families and couples did better than singles while being left alone for such a long time during the pandemic.

Although some took the risk of going out during the outbreak, many had no option but to stay at home out of concern for a loved one. This woke up many men and women to consider moving forward with their partners toward marriage. This is a noble solution to the problem of being alone. Wisdom would say that although it’s great to get married, we must build solidly to have a long-lasting marriage.

As a minister, I notice that couples in our church tend to rush into marriage but many, if not all, of these couples wisely seek advice. The pandemic is causing doubts and questions for possible weddings of 2021 such as financial costs, wedding attendance, where to live, school, jobs, family distance, etc.

A blessing in disguise of the pandemic is that it is helping couples to work through these issues with others, which is helping them to count the cost of moving forward.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’Luke 14:28-30

These couples cannot afford to put up money for a big wedding, and they are wondering where to live because, if the pandemic extends, they want to know could they be safe, and what is around them in walking distance i.e., parks, beach, trails, stores, etc. With this in mind, partners are asking one another about pre-marital counseling.

Premarital counseling is a foundational precursor to a healthy marriage because we tend to invest in what’s important to us. The passage in Luke helps us to consider how we are building. Couples aren’t just “fools rush in”, there is an alternative that can support a stronger relationship that will remain resilient during challenging times.

Sadly, many couples also ended their relationship in 2020 because the pandemic tested them beyond their capabilities and forced them to tap out. Couples’ characters were exposed and with the added pressures of isolation, they had no one to turn to. These marriages had little to no support that otherwise could have been of immense help.

The question is, why didn’t these couples have support? We could chalk it up to many possibilities, but one vital reason could be that it wasn’t discussed at their premarital counseling. We all have friends, but we don’t turn to them to get input especially about sensitive material as insecurities, sexual intimacy, conflict, jealousy, deceit, secrets, etc.

If adequate support is not set up in advance this challenge can be difficult to overcome. We all need support to move forward in life. We all appreciate the heroic stories of individuals, but the most encouraging ones are the teams of heroes that show everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Avengers, Justice League, and Star Wars are all some of the biggest box office hits in the last decade. The reason for their success is that they are teams fighting off a great evil. These have become bigger revenue-generating franchises and have overtaken the individual hero’s place as top of the box office king. Why do we have less enthusiasm about being a team in our marriages? Marriage is a perfect opportunity to be a team and have others team up to helps us.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is an interesting passage for couples because if my partner and I are one then who is going to help our one unit? Some may suggest that spouses are the other individual to help them out, but we can challenge that position by reminding everyone of the goal that God designed in Genesis 2:24 “the two will become one.”

By that principle, a couple who follows the word of God is one unit. The secret of Christian marriage is that we get to celebrate two lives joined together in holy matrimony, yet they are not alone. In the kingdom of God, we have support and guidance to face any issue. Marriages should never be alone. As separate individuals, we can support one another and maximize the potential of our unions.

2021 is going to be a full year of many couples dating, getting engaged, then married. Families will begin and many joyous occasions will take place. During those moments there will be stress and anxiety and one way to combat those symptoms will be to get premarital counseling as soon as possible.

First, dating or engaged couples can jumpstart their long-term relationship by investing in a healthy premarital counseling series so that they can develop a great foundation to make their marriage strong. Second, they can develop a support network. If they do these two crucial things, along with reading their Bible and praying every day, then they can have confidence that will stay together for the long haul.

If for some reason their church, ministry, friends, or community cannot provide that, then therapy can be a great alternative. Marriage and Family therapists are trained in basic approaches that can help couples in their relationships hence the title “marriage” therapist. Some may say that therapy is too pricey and could take up a lot of your time. An argument can be made that investing in your relationship is priceless.

When I married Nicole, there was no price too high to pay for the ring, wedding, and honeymoon. We had a budget of course, but my attitude was that I wanted to invest in the things I thought were important to me. Where we put our money shows where we are invested.

My advice to those of you reading this article is that if you are considering getting married soon, think about possibly getting premarital counseling through a therapist who will be impartial and professional. Sometimes our friends and family can mean well when it comes to giving us premarital advice but at times that can have some biases attached with it.

A professional therapist is trained to be in the middle and not side with either partner. The licensed marriage and family therapist will work with both individuals to help bring issues to light that could be of concern and to build skills to help them navigate expectations for the future.

Having a healthy dynamic marriage is priceless. I look back to when Nicole and I got premarital counseling and I shudder to think what would be said of us right now if we had never invested in our relationship after our engagement. In truth, our marriage would be a nightmare.

I’m grateful that others supported me and helped me to learn ways to communicate effectively, how to plan out my week with my wife, prioritizing biblical values, sexual intimacy, reconciliation, daily encouragement, effective roles, letting go of past hurts, submitting to one another, listening, finances, etc. Many couples get married and do not talk about these issues.

It is no wonder that couples have so many arguments. They approach their relationship with optimism but then they hit a snag after the vows. When conflict arises, they realize that they didn’t prepare for these issues and are shocked when they have no one to turn to. They want to save face, so they keep it “in-house”. They go to church and pretend that everything is fine.

Deep down, however, they are yearning for help so that they can grow. This piece is written for those looking forward to getting married this year but honestly, anyone can get counseling at any point in their relationship. It’s an investment that will reap long-lasting rewards. One spouse can go alone, although it is highly recommended that both attend.

If the couple is healthy, and one spouse wants to process a trauma from their past, then that one spouse should get therapy and may not need to include the other. If the conflict affects both, then both should attend to get therapy. Premarital counseling will prepare the couple so that they will not be blindsided by any potential threats.

Athletes say that the worst hit they take on the field is the one they don’t see coming. With premarital counseling, not only will you be ready for those challenges, but you will also be ready to confront them. Not only will you be ready to confront them but be victorious as a wonderful team. I close out with an encouraging analogy from Jesus on how to build our spiritual homes:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:24-27

Photos:
“Rings”, Courtesy of Nick Karvounis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love & Respect”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Devotions Together”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, 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.

Behavior Problems in Children: What to Do

While behavior problems in children are common, attitudes towards them are varied. Christian Counselors are often contacted by parents who are concerned by their children’s behavior.

Examples of common behavior problems in children include: talking back, lying, fighting, hitting, kicking, being disrespectful, and so on.

It can be exhausting to deal with behavior problems in children. Parents often feel angry and confused about their child’s behavior. It can be terrifying when you don’t understand what’s happening with your child, don’t know how to help, but feel totally responsible for making things better for them.

For example, how do you handle the situation when your child is having a meltdown? Or when they are sobbing inconsolably? Perhaps your child seems to react to the slightest thing and become aggressive, and you have no idea what to do in that situation. Children who don’t listen or refuse to comply with rules are equally difficult to deal with.

Counselors who deal with children with behavior problems and their parents consider the most important word associated with behavior problems in children is interpretation. This is because behavior is regarded as 90% about the way it’s interpreted.

Interpretation covers:

  • Why we think a behavior is happening
  • The level of control we think the child has over the behavior
  • How we think the child feels

Thinking and assuming are part of interpretation, and interpretation is not the same as understanding. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to engage in therapy with a Christian counselor. Therapy opens the door to move from assuming to understanding why your child is behaving in ways that you consider to be problematic. It also helps to decide whether the behavior is actually ‘normal’ or not.

A Christian counselor with experience in therapy with children and their parents has created a list of behaviors that parents regard as problems and the root feelings that are causing – or contributing to – the behavior.

Feelings Associated with Behaviors

Behavior Feelings Questions to Ask
Hoarding food;

Lying;

Stealing

Fear;

Shame;

A need to hide

Who or what is causing the fear?

What are they ashamed of other people knowing? What is causing their need to hide, or for what reason do they feel not good enough?

Talking back; hitting; kicking Anger What is causing the anger?
Sexualized Behavior Confusion Have they seen or experienced sexual behavior first hand?
Self-harm or putting themselves at risk Sadness What loss have they been enduring? Have they experienced harm or trauma?

For parents struggling to deal with their child’s difficulties, the principle question that needs to be considered is What is my child’s need that’s being unmet? When we talk about unmet needs, however, it’s important to remember that these are deep, emotional needs, not issues regarding toys or other material things.

Parents need to understand the issues that their child is wrestling with, and why they’re struggling. It may be that your child has something that they long to talk to someone about, but they don’t know how to express it. Similarly, children who are exposed to traumatic situations suffer confusion and it may be that their behavior is their way of trying to sort through the confusion – probably unsuccessfully.

The primary questions that bring parents to Christian family counselors are, “Why is my child behaving like this?” and “can you make it stop?” While these questions are important, in counseling it is beneficial to reframe the questions. Reframing is a way to take the concern and uncover the root issues and needs. The reframed question is often much more complex than the questions that bring parents to family counselors.

Most frequently, the root concern is more likely to be “Am I a bad parent since I can’t get my child to behave right?” It’s not uncommon for parents to see their child’s behavior as a reflection of their ability to raise children well. For family counselors, the next stage of therapy is to normalize the behaviors parents are seeing as problems and help to reduce the child’s need to display those problem behaviors.

Functional Behavioral Analysis

An important technique in helping parents and their children is Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA). This is a method that is based on the idea that While every behavior has a cause, not all behaviors are interpreted in the same way. For example, a parent might approach a counselor and complain that their child is disrespectful because they couldn’t sit still throughout a movie. In the parent’s eyes, the child’s behavior was an intentional attempt to disrupt the enjoyment of the movie for the rest of the family.

Another example could be a parent who, in a therapy session with their child, remarks that the child doesn’t care and isn’t listening, on the basis of the fact that the child is sitting playing silently in the sandbox. In both situations, the parents are viewing their child’s behavior as disrespectful and wanting help to ‘correct’ this. However, FBA questions the evidence that the parent is basing their interpretation of the child’s behavior.

Here’s a reproduction of an FBA chart that visualizes a means of talking about these examples:

Behavior (bx) Possible Functions of the bx: Analysis
Child won’t stop moving While the movie is on A: Intentional disruption

OR

B: Moving to deal with anxiety or because of ADHD

My child is disruptive

OR

My child is anxious

Child playing in the sandbox during therapy session about their behavior. Child neither talking nor making eye-contact A: Child playing in the sandbox because they don’t care

OR

B: Child playing in the sand as a calming or coping mechanism, to deal with shyness or anxiety

My child is disrespectful

OR

My child is ashamed

It’s clear when looking at this Functional Behavioral Analysis chart that it’s possible to come to entirely different conclusions about the behavior when you consider the function of the behavior. It’s not always as clear cut as parents assume it to be, meaning that problem behaviors are not always problems but rather dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

Look deeper into the roots of the behavior and you might find, for example, that these two hypothetical children had both experienced a significant loss in the past year, such as the death of a family member or being abandoned by one parent. They might come from families with a history of trauma, where security wasn’t a certainty.

Children who are responsive to correction or who are compliant are children who have experienced an adequate level of empathy, warmth, and care that leads to feelings of security and trust in their caregiver.

When these things are less than adequate, or entirely absent, there is no such security and trust, and “problem” behaviors are a child’s way of dealing with their uncomfortable feelings. They don’t feel able to turn to their caregiver for comfort and regulation.

Issues to Consider

Therefore, when it comes to the question of “why is my child behaving like this?” there are issues that need to be considered before labeling a behavior as problematic:

1. Family of origin

Many children who end up in family therapy come from homes that are broken or dysfunctional. Often, they live with one parent, While the other parent has died, is in jail, has become an addict, or is otherwise absent. Children need caregivers who are available to meet their needs on a consistent basis, and in many cases, this is lacking.

2. Frequency of Play

How frequently does the child have the opportunity to play, and with whom? Children benefit considerably from play, particularly when their parent(s) get down on the floor with them and build with Legos and other toys. Similarly, children need the opportunity to play with other children and don’t do well when they’re forced to assume an adult role in the home.

Play is vital for a child’s development, particularly psychologically. Many parents see play as optional, but actually, it’s a necessity. Play helps children to develop self-esteem, creativity, self-awareness, self-regulation, patience, distress tolerance, and much more. Children with behavior problems often don’t have opportunities to play or have never had a parent play with them.

3. Control

What do they have control over? This is a massive determining factor in child behavior. Adults have control over a lot of things – such as where you go, what you do, what you eat, and so on – but children have much less control. Children are told what they have to do, where they have to go, what and how much to eat, what to wear – the list is endless.

In children whose problem behavior relates to bodily functions, it is sometimes the case that the child feels they have so little control in their life that they develop problem behaviors with their bodily functions because that’s one thing they do have control over.

In therapy, parents are taught the HALT technique before they assume that their child’s behavior is a problem. Is the child Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? Think about your own behavior when you are affected by these feelings.

We excuse our own behavior due to tiredness but are less willing to attribute a child’s behavior in the same way. It’s really important to see whether HALT is causing unwanted behavior rather than jumping to the conclusion that the child is simply unpleasant.

4. Caregivers

What do the caregivers believe they know about parenting? As harsh as it sounds, parents can often have misconceptions about best practices in parenting, and this can impact on how they interpret their child’s behavior.

Questions to ask parents of children with behavior problems include their understanding of attachment styles, their parenting styles, the way a child’s brain functions when they’re having a tantrum, and how to discuss behavior with their child.

There are two really great resources that parents can use to build their knowledge and understanding:

  • The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel – which is available as a book, workbook, and video – helps parents to understand how to handle their child’s behavior.
  • Helping the Non-Compliant Child by Robert McMahon – which helps parents bring consistency into their relationship with their child and build the child’s self-awareness.

5. Environment

What is the child’s environment? A difficult issue to raise in therapy is the impact of socioeconomic status on stress levels within the family unit. Other environmental considerations might include families dealing with addiction, and families with a large number of children where kids have to compete for attention.

6. Family Relationships

What is the child’s relationship with family members like? An example of the impact of broken family relationships might be the parent who comes to therapy with a child who is depressed, anxious and is acting out at school, but who later reveals that the father has recently moved out. Young boys need a dad, and young girls need a mom. Problems often emerge when one parent is absent.

Siblings can also contribute to difficult behavior. Older siblings who bully or tease their younger siblings can cause the younger child to resort to bad behavior.

The question of whether a child’s behavior is normal is not easily answered. The best answer that a counselor can give is probably not the one that parents want to hear: it depends. There are a lot of factors that can influence behavior, so there’s no simple yes or no answer to the question of what is and isn’t normal.

If you want to help your child with their behavior, it’s necessary for you to have an open mind in order to explore the root causes and be willing to engage in education on family dynamics. Christian counselors can really help with gaining a full understanding of your child’s behavior and give you resources to help handle it.

Photos:
“Bali Girl”, Courtesy of Nuno Alberto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Unsupervised”, Courtesy of Mike Fox, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Ahhh,” courtesy of Jelleke VanOoteghem, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Comfort”, Courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Build Trust in a Relationship: 7 Important Steps

This article will provide seven steps to take that will help you learn how to build trust in a relationship. First, however, we will need to start with the basics.

The Definition of Trust

Trust is having confidence in someone and believing that he or she will love you forever and is always going to remain loyal. Trusting people is difficult because it means you need to believe that you are able to depend on them and feel comfortable with them to the point where you are okay with confiding in them and letting them see you in a vulnerable state. Trust acts as a key component for the foundation of any kind of relationship.

The Importance of Trust in your Relationships

Establishing trust within a couple’s relationship is critical because it provides a feeling of security in which each partner is allowed to be his or her authentic self. Trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. If trust exists within a couple, insecurities do not get in the way of the relationship.

Having trust in another person helps us face problems together while maintaining a sense of balance between outside relationships with other people such as friends or family and inside the relationship.

Establishing trust also means each partner is allowed to have his or her own space and time away from the other partner without causing problems in the relationship.

When a couple has faith in one another, they have confidence that their partner is trustworthy. Support systems within relationships assist couples in having the ability to challenge each other as well as themselves and take occasional risks for ambitions and personal growth.

Knowing that your significant other is there for you at all times provides a feeling of freedom. Trust makes the relationship stronger because you and your partner are supportive and know that you will always have each other’s backs.

Trust is crucial when overcoming issues in any relationship. Trust binds partners together and provides confidence that the partners can join together and overcome whatever issues they are facing.

Trust establishes faith and knowledge that you and your partner can move past any hurts and wrongdoings that have occurred. Knowing that your partner is loyal and loves you even in moments of conflict can cultivate an increase in honesty and strengthen your relationship.

Relationships cannot thrive or survive without trust. Negative consequences of a lack of trust include the dissolution of the relationship, crippling fear, and a lot of insecurity. The relationship becomes dysfunctional and at times could be classified as chaotic.

Trust is a crucial foundation for relationships because, with trust, relationships will not be destroyed when hardships arise. However, if there is no established trust in a relationship, the relationship has little chance of survival when problems, doubts, or suspicions come up.

Trust works to create a sense of safety in relationships. The sense of safety makes more room for intimacy, devotion, and love as well as allows partners to feel comfortable. If a sense of security and trust are not present in a relationship, insecurities and fear get in the way.

Advice for Gaining Trust in Your Relationship

The following list contains steps that can help partners find ways of gaining trust in their relationships. This list does not need to be followed in order but each item should be included in an ongoing pattern of communication within a relationship.

Incorporate these steps into your relationship and watch how trust will build if you and your partner both make an effort to implement these elements.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries are critical to relationships, so it is important to honor your partner’s boundaries that you have agreed upon. Even if your partner’s boundaries and values are different from yours, honoring them can create excellent opportunities for you and your partner to find out more about one another’s virtues, values, and strengths.

Implementing boundaries can help partners find out how much emotional or physical space each one is comfortable with. It is important to communicate your boundaries to your partner, which includes how much time alone you need, how comfortable you feel inside your relationship, what you are comfortable letting other people know about your relationship, etc.

Learn to Communicate Effectively and Openly

A major reason that many relationships do not work out is because of insufficient communication. Constructive, open, and active communication is not easy in relationships, but it is vital if you and your partner want to have healthy patterns of communication. Implementing open communication can help build mutual agreements and shared understandings regarding how you would like to incorporate other people into your life and relationship.

Effective communication also includes active listening. It is easy to interrupt our partners when they are talking, provide advice without listening to our partners, or quickly jump to solutions. It is difficult to always actively listen to your partner instead of immediately planning out what your response is going to be.

If you are an active listener, though, your partner will see that you are respectful and caring towards what he or she is saying even if your feelings differ. Listening to your partner without judgment is an important method of building trust.

Be Honest

Of course, honesty is another crucial component of establishing trust in relationships. Transparency within the relationship can build trust because both partners will be allowed to feel comfortable and safe.

There is not a lot of opportunity for negative assumptions or thoughts about the other person’s activities if both partners openly communicate consistently. Sharing the things that you are experiencing and specific details regarding your day begins a consistent pattern that can build trust.

It is important to note that the concept of honesty doesn’t mean both partners need to share each and every detail of their lives. However, lies of omission, deception, and dishonesty can all tear apart relationships.

Honesty needs to constantly be practiced and it is typically found that when trust is growing, the partners begin to find no need to justify things or explain their behaviors because there is faith that the other partner will understand their thoughts and actions.

Be Humble

Mistakes in relationships are inevitable and going to happen. However, it is very possible to work towards repairing a damaged relationship and lead it towards healing. Both partners must be able to admit mistakes and be open to coming together to rebuild trust and work through their mistakes.

Perfect relationships do not exist and not every expectation will be met, especially early in a relationship. It is important to realize this going into the relationship so that you are not caught off guard when issues arise. Admitting wrongdoings and taking responsibility for mistakes actually works to strengthen your relationship and build more trust.

Be Reliable

Successful relationships exist when each partner follows through with set communication habits, intentional behaviors, and personal boundaries that have been established within the relationships. When promises are broken or agreements are not adhered to, trust diminishes, which can cause catastrophic consequences to relationships.

You should never agree with your partner or make promises just so that he or she will be happy because failing to keep promises or agreements is a very common way that trust is broken. That is why it is very important to be honest and continue to maintain open communication. Making sure your behaviors and promises match up can lead to the strengthening of trust and a healthier relationship.

Express your needs

Trying to read your partner’s mind can have serious consequences. Even if you know each other very well, you can never know exactly what your partner is thinking. Of course, you can come up with a prediction based on past behavior or patterns, but if you do not ask your partner his or her thoughts upfront, you cannot know what he or she is thinking. If you assume that you’re able to know what he or she did, thinks, or feels, it will not help the relationship.

A key method of avoiding mind reading or making assumptions is to simply express what your needs are. If you express your needs, you are providing your partner with specifics that he or she should consider and if he or she follows through with your request, trust can build.

If your partner is expressing his or her needs, you should try to understand his or her mindset and be empathetic in an attempt to understand the needs and gain some perspective. Not only does fulfilling a partner’s need help a couple get to know each other better, but it can also build trust.

Forgive

Forgiveness is also a crucial component of trust. If partners trust each other, they will understand that fights or disagreements are not indicative of the relationship ending. If you trust that you and your partner have your relationship and each other’s interests in mind, you will gain a sense of security even if things are difficult. Dealing with challenges and providing forgiveness is made much easier if the couple trusts that they can overcome any situation.

Can I Heal From Past Hurts?

Building trust takes intentionality and a lot of time and effort. It is never easy to establish trust and this is made even more difficult if some sort of betrayal has occurred.

It is possible for betrayal to be exhibited in different ways, such as misusing power, crossing boundaries, or committing lies and deception. Repairing a relationship after betrayal is difficult, and forgiveness is the sole way that a relationship can heal and move forward. Of course, an apology is the first step in asking for forgiveness.

In order for there to be forgiveness, both parties must acknowledge that betrayal and hurt have taken place. If you have betrayed your partner, you must take responsibility for it, which is a huge step in acknowledging your partner’s pain. After that, you must find a way to ensure your partner that the betrayal won’t happen again. It is critical to provide your partner with the promise of that you regret the behavior and will never commit it in the future.

Lastly, you also must analyze your feelings to recognize why you are dealing with this experience in the first place. You cannot deny the betrayal, but you can explore the reasons. Some questions you may have include, “What am I expecting from our relationship?,” “Have I’ve been harboring these feelings for a long time?,” or “In what ways is this issue affecting me?”

Having an awareness of your personal tendency towards doubts and insecurity is another crucial piece to rebuilding trust. You have to have a lot of patience with yourself, which will help you learn how to identify if you are hesitant to trust your partner because of a betrayal you experienced in the past. If you seem to be having doubts, it is crucial to communicate the insecurities to your partner instead of suppressing them just because you are scared to say anything.

Nobody is perfect and it takes a lot of faith to extend trust to another person because it is scary and intimidating. We all make mistakes and oftentimes our reactions are not preferable, but having patience with yourself can be of great assistance while you learn about yourself and develop the ability to trust over time.

Seeking Help

It is usually very hard to move past previous betrayals and hurts in relationships, and it is easy to begin feeling “stuck.” If this is happening to you and you don’t feel you can trust yourself and your own judgment right now, a counselor can assist you in exploring and addressing these issues. We would love to take the journey of healing with you while you work towards building stronger relationships that include an ample amount of trust.

Photos:
“Couple’s PDA,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Holding Hands,” courtesy of Phuoc Le, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Humble Yourself,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Distrust”, Courtesy of Joshua Rawson Harris, Unsplash.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.

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Three Anger Issues Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

You’re driving down the highway and a driver cuts in front of you. Your immediate reaction is to blare your horn and shout obscenities. Road rage is a term used to describe someone expressing their anger while driving and it’s one of many examples of anger.

There are a variety of situations that can trigger anger. Here are a few  anger issues symptoms to look out for.

Common Anger Issues Symptoms

1. Silent and invisible anger

Anger issues symptomsWhen most people think about anger they imagine verbal and physical outbursts. However, anger manifests in many different ways including a silent and invisible expression. The phrase “it makes my blood boil” accurately describes how anger can feel.

You could be fuming mad internally, but on the surface, you appear normal. Anger, if never addressed in a healthy way, can begin as a silent build-up of emotions. Like a volcano, it lays dormant under the surface until one day it erupts unexpectedly.

2. Aggressive anger

Anger issues symptomsAggression is the typical symptom that comes to mind when anger is mentioned. Think of a toddler’s temper tantrum. They pinch, hit, scream, slap, punch, throw, slam and stomp. Those tantrums don’t always go away as the transition to adulthood happens.

If anger isn’t properly directed and managed it can cause harm to yourself and others. Counseling provides a place to talk about and examine what exactly is causing the anger. If anger isn’t being talked about, it’s being expressed instead.

You can think of anger like a water bottle. Each situation that frustrates or angers us adds a drop to the water bottle. Eventually, if the water is never released it becomes too full and overflows. In the end, it’s usually something that doesn’t normally frustrate us that ends up causing the overflow.

Anger issues symptomsIt’s not until someone snaps that others pay attention. It’s often hard to see what’s bubbling under the surface until it has already boiled over. Anger is like an iceberg.

Above the surface of the water, only a portion of the ice is visible. But below the water, lies the part of the ice that is unseen. This is the other feelings besides anger that create the bulk of the iceberg that’s invisible. These feelings can range from guilt to embarrassment and stress.

Anger, whether silent or screaming, can be brutal. Learning to communicate your feelings of anger is the key to normalizing and neutralizing the power anger has. By discussing what you remember and how it made you feel you are integrating the right (emotional) and the left (logical) hemispheres of the brain. This helps you to regain control of your anger instead of allowing anger to dominate you.

If we only look at anger when someone is in the middle of being angry, we will never understand their anger fully. Whether sitting with a 4-year-old who has constant tantrums or an ex-convict who recalls having blackout rages, the conversations are similar.

A counselor might ask, “What do you remember?” In digging deeper the conversation might shift to, “Where did you first start to feel the anger in your body?” Taking the time to understand and examine your anger in order to discover root issues will help you heal.

3. Self-focused Versus Others-focused Anger

People don’t always associate anger with depression, but if you dissect the thought process of someone living with depression, you will often find signs of anger turned inward.

Anger issues symptomsThoughts like, “I’m worthless” or “I’m not good enough,” can become repeated thoughts in the mind. If these thoughts are left bottled up, it can turn into a belief that life is not worth living anymore or everybody is better off without you around. Self-hatred can lead to suicide.

The opposite of this is homicide. Homicide is when anger towards another person builds to the point where murdering that person seems justified. Others-focused anger takes on various forms including aggravated assault, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, bullying, and terrorism. Both self-focused and others-focused anger is rooted in deep feelings of anger that originated somewhere within.

Anger is a normal emotion. How you channel that anger is what matters most. Anger that is left unchecked, can have disastrous effects. Feeling anger can be helpful because it is a gateway to identifying and uncovering other thoughts and emotions. Christian counseling is just one way to begin a journey of handling your anger in healthy ways. If you struggle with anger and its symptoms, Christian counseling offers a safe place to experience freedom.

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How Forgiving Others Can Set You Free

Forgiveness. It’s such a loaded topic. There’s so much pain and doubt associated with that word — maybe bitterness, resentment, anguish, or grief.

Something shook you to your core, caused you deep sadness, and now you wonder: how can I move on from this? What does God expect me today? How can I forgive someone when I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout of how they’ve hurt me?

Does forgiving others mean pretending you weren’t hurt? Does it minimize the pain that person has caused or the harm they’ve done?

The Meaning of Forgiveness

We all tend to have a personal definition of forgiveness. Depending on how we grew up, we might think forgiving others means accepting an apology, sweeping things under the rug, or talking it out. People have many different approaches to resolving a conflict. How does forgiveness apply in every situation?

What about the person who hurt you? They apologize. You forgive them. You assume this means they won’t commit the offense again. But then the person hurts you more.

Now you feel betrayed and confused. Was the person ever really sorry? Are you supposed to keep forgiving and acting as if nothing happened?

Extending mercy can seem impossible when someone has grievously sinned against you, when they continue to hurt you in the same way, or when you feel you must pretend that everything is okay when it’s not.

We have to cut through the confusion surrounding how we define forgiveness. What’s the motive behind it? What does the process of forgiveness entail? What should we do with patterns of harmful behavior that are forgiven and then repeated over and over again? How can we address the pain without living in bitterness?

The Complication of Emotions

We struggle because of the grief and anger we experience after being hurt. We may have thoughts like, “Why should I have to forgive them? Why don’t they treat me better?”

You might feel like you have to dismiss these thoughts to forgive someone, but acknowledging your emotions is crucial to the healing process. That way, you can work through them instead of stuffing them down, only to have them pop up again later and make things even more complicated.

Making the Decision to Forgive

Questions about forgiving others abound. Here are some you may struggle with:

  • Should you immediately “forgive and forget” the sin of the person who hurt you?
  • What does forgiveness look like on a practical level?
  • Do you have to communicate your forgiveness to the person who hurt you? If so, how?
  • Does God give us a time limit for how long we can take to forgive someone?
  • Is there a biblical process?
  • Are there examples in Scripture for us to follow?

As Christians, we know we are obligated to forgive. So, if there’s a time we’re struggling with the hurt someone has caused us, we often feel guilty and ashamed that we can’t “snap out of it” and immediately go on with life.

Scripture does have answers to these difficulties. We need to study the biblical principle of forgiveness, from God to us and from us to each other. Then, seeking God in prayer for wisdom, we can apply these principles to our lives and relationships.

One of the most definite statements we’ve heard on forgiveness came from a teenager who said, “You don’t need an apology to forgive. The Bible has taught me how to forgive others and is a constant reminder that I’ve received forgiveness as well.”

When They’re Not Sorry

There are some critical aspects of forgiveness we need to explore:

  • What is forgiveness?
  • What is not forgiveness?
  • Is there a timeline for it?

When people aren’t repentant, we can still forgive them. We see this in Jesus in one of his last moments on this earth. He prayed for the people who were crucifying Him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

Jesus demonstrates for us that if someone hurts us and doesn’t even realize it, we still have the freedom to forgive them.

This kind of forgiveness is a powerful act. How can we “let someone off the hook” who doesn’t acknowledge the offense? The world around us won’t understand. But we know that grace is a gift from God. When we extend grace unasked, we bless the person who hurt us, and we also benefit our spirit.

When Jesus forgave those who put him to death, the criminal hanging next to Him heard it. He asked Jesus to remember Him. Jesus responded with compassion and love, setting the most excellent example for us. He said to the criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:34

When You’re Hurt Again

So you go through the process of forgiveness and feel that now, all will be well!

But then the person who hurt you does it again. How many times should we forgive a person who keeps hurting us? If we get angry the next time, does that mean we never truly forgave them in the first place?

These situations can make us very confused. Should we give this person space in our lives to continue hurting us? Can we stay away from them so they won’t cause more damage? How do we forgive, yet keep ourselves emotionally safe?

Scripture addresses these situations as well, teaching us how many times we should forgive someone. The Bible also discusses the concepts of restoration and reconciliation (which are distinct from forgiveness itself).

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22

So we see that Jesus wants us to extend grace over and over again, just like He does for us. No matter how many times the person hurts us, we should be willing to show them mercy, as we have received mercy.

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. We humbly acknowledge that we are sinners in need of grace. If we are a believer, God has forgiven us of our enormous sin debt against Him. So we turn to another and extend grace to them, knowing we have no right to demand payment from them for their debt against us.

How does this apply to physically or emotionally dangerous situations? Forgiveness means letting go of the desire for revenge or retribution. It means not seeking repayment for someone’s sin debt against us.

But forgiveness doesn’t preclude the wisdom of stewarding our bodies, minds, and hearts, and taking action to keep ourselves safe. With a humble, forgiving spirit, we may remove ourselves from a dangerous situation, or distance ourselves from a person who is emotionally damaging.

Forgiveness doesn’t equate to the restoration of a relationship, or reconciliation with the person who’s hurt us. Forgiveness is a one-way street. Reconciliation is a two-way street that requires both people to acknowledge their sin and be willing to change sinful behavior by God’s grace.

As you can see, forgiveness isn’t simplistic at all! It’s between you and God. He alone knows your thoughts and motives. He can give you the grace and wisdom you need to discern what’s required for any situation, whether that be forgiveness, emotional distance, or the restoration of a relationship. Take time to seek Him, and if others misunderstand you in the process, trust that He understands you.

The Hurt That Lasts Years

Some people will never be in our lives again because of the significant damage they’ve caused us. Sometimes we may have removed ourselves emotionally from something that happened a long time ago.

We might be okay with lingering subconscious resentment and think that the process of forgiveness isn’t even worth it. If we no longer think about it, we’ve forgiven that person, right?

Consider whether any past hurts still give a foothold to bitterness in your soul. There is intentional work to be done if this is the case. You don’t need to uproot your grief or undo the damage they caused. It means you can find freedom from any unforgiveness that holds you hostage while still acknowledging that what the other person did was sinful and wrong.

Read this beautiful Scripture that ties together God’s forgiveness for us, our forgiveness for others, and our prayer life:

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25

This Scripture demonstrates that forgiveness happens in our hearts and it’s between God and us. It takes time to process our pain, as tempting as it may sometimes be to sweep it under the rug. God wants us to open our hearts and lay our hurt before Him, so we can forgive without making excuses for the other person’s sin.

What about when you are the person in need of forgiveness? Think of the guilt or shame you feel when you know you’ve sinned against someone. Consider the relief of being fully and freely forgiven. God can grant you the grace to offer that gift to someone who has hurt you. As you do so, you will remember His loving forgiveness for your sin and His care for you that does not diminish when other people sin against you.

When the Relationship is Ongoing

As we’ve seen, forgiveness has many implications for our lives, and it can take many forms as we forgive:

  • Someone who never apologized
  • Someone who continues to sin against us
  • Someone who we are still in a relationship with, whether that be a spouse, family member, friend, coworker, etc.

How do we manage our relationships when we are committed to forgiving others when they hurt us?

Sometimes we don’t feel confident enough to confront someone about how they’ve hurt us, so there’s never an opportunity to resolve the issue. And often if we do face someone about the pain they’ve caused, they don’t take responsibility for what they’ve done. They may not apologize, or they may offer a surface-level apology and expect us to move on quickly.

When someone is uncaring and harsh, can we still love them? Can the power of our love motivate someone to change when nothing else would? With God, all things are possible.

In the New Testament, we read of a practical example of forgiveness among Christians, including the grief caused by the person who sinned:

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent – not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven – If there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake. – 2 Corinthians 2: 5-8, 10

Loving someone when they don’t deserve it can unlock the door to renewal for both you and the person who hurt you. If the person is repentant, we have the freedom in Christ to comfort them and help them cultivate the motivation to change their damaging behavior.

Again, biblical love doesn’t mean setting yourself up for physical or emotional abuse. It doesn’t mean ignoring your right to be safe. If you are struggling with a situation like this, please reach out for help so you can apply biblical principles in a way that is wise for your circumstances.

The Next Step

The pain caused by others can have a varying degree of impact on our lives, depending on the severity of the offense. We may experience hurt, sadness, grief, anger, betrayal, and trauma as a result of someone’s actions towards us. The counselors at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling can help you process these emotions and work towards finding freedom through forgiveness.

Taking the next step is a courageous act, and it’s one you don’t have to carry alone. If you are struggling with someone who is still in your life, you may be able to bring them to counseling too. Our family counselors are available to help you work through the process of forgiveness together.

If you are the one who has caused the hurt and you’re struggling with guilt and shame, we want to help you find freedom in God’s grace and the restoration of your relationships.

Forgiveness and freedom are available to you today. Let us help you take the next step in your journey.

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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!

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