Four Premarital Counseling Topics You Shouldn’t Avoid

Getting married is a really thrilling point in your life. Congratulations if you’re about to start out on a journey with the love of your life!

Marriage is an adventure that works best if you prepare well for it. Just as you would plan, in advance, a physical journey you are planning to take, preparing for your wedding and married life will ensure a smoother ride than if you just see how it all works out.

There are some things that you can’t prepare for, of course unexpected situations or events that can only be dealt with when they happen. However, God is always with you no matter what you face. What’s more, you can trust in His promise that He will never leave or forsake you. Even in the most challenging of situations in your marriage, you can depend on God.


premarital counseling

There are some things in your marriage that don’t come with a universal how-to-guide to help you navigate turbulent times. These include your relationship with your in-laws. While you may be blessed with really great in-laws who accept you into their family and treat you just like they treat your partner, sadly this may not always be the case.

You may face other challenges in your marriage related to your in-laws for example, if your partner continues to rely on his or her mother or father instead of you. It may be that your partner calls her mother when she’s upset instead of discussing the issue with you first. Or, your marriage may be strained by an expectation that you’ll be able to do home improvement tasks just as well as your partner’s father or brother.

When you’re entering into a marriage, being aware of the conflicts that you may face can help you to deal with these if (or when) they occur. It’s important to acknowledge your concerns from the outset and not try to brush them aside and hope that they get better in time.

This is particularly true if you have concerns about your future spouse’s relationship with his or her family. Discussing these things with an experienced pre-marital counselor will help to reduce the potential negative impact or conflict in the future.

Premarital counseling can help you to start your marriage with a really healthy relationship. Its aim is to strengthen foundations before entering into a covenant with God. You may have to work hard to iron out some issues, but if you’re planning your wedding you should already be committed to doing whatever is needed in order to make the relationship work.

Working on building a healthy relationship can be challenging – because human nature is to become easily discontented and to complain rather than resolve problems. We’re also prone to comparison – comparing our lives to the lives of others that we know. Taking the idea of divorce as a possibility out of the equation from the start can motivate you to put more effort into your marriage.

This understanding, of course, is regarding the ‘normal’ conflicts that emerge in marriage not infidelity or abuse. When infidelity or abuse is the problem then there needs to be a different approach. Premarital counseling helps you to prepare for more everyday challenges, not more serious issues.

Premarital Counseling Topics

There are certain topics that should be discussed during premarital counseling sessions. Firstly, it’s important to establish how you and your future spouse define commitment. When you think about commitment, what immediately comes to mind? What experiences have you had in your family (throughout childhood) that may have affected your view of committment? Commitment is a vital first step in building strong foundations for your marriage in the years to come.

Another subject that you might want to discuss in premarital counseling is your goals for the future. For example, if your future spouse plans to start his own business, but that will involve moving to another region or state, you need to talk about what this means for both of you. It’s important to discuss these things before you make the covenant of marriage, to avoid difficult conflicts later.

You may want to stay close to your parents and siblings or have family-related responsibilities that require you to stay relatively close. If you and your spouse are both aware of these kinds of things, you can discuss any compromises that you might need to make so that you can both fulfill your goals for the future.

What are your thoughts about children? It’s really important to discuss this subject in premarital counseling, as well as considering what you might do if you are unable to conceive children naturally. You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but talking through these kinds of things can help to reduce conflict later in your marriage.

You should also discuss what your expectations are for your marriage. This might include things like spending time with your own group of friends, and what your social life might look like as a couple. If one of you is extroverted and the other is more introverted, how will you organize your social life to have a balance that works for both of you?

What do you plan to do about roles in your new family? If you plan to have children, do you want to be married for a certain amount of time before you start trying for a baby? How will you manage birth control if that’s your plan? What about your career when your children are young? Will one of you stay at home or do you intend to use daycare? Discussing these issues in advance isn’t vital, but it can help to reduce problems in the future.

There are four particular issues that absolutely must be discussed during premarital counseling. These are finances, intimacy, spirituality, and conflict. While finances and intimacy are always evolving in your relationship, they are hugely important. In fact, finances and intimacy can make or break a relationship.


Finances can cause a lot of conflict in relationships, so it’s essential that you spend time during premarital counseling discussing your thoughts and feelings about finances. You could discuss:

  • Who will be responsible for paying the bills?
  • Will you make financial decisions together?
  • How will you deal with any disagreements about your finances?
  • What amount of savings will make you feel that you’re secure?
  • How do you feel about debt?

Debt is an issue that can lead to a lot of arguments. If you and your future spouse have differing views about debt, then this is something you really need to discuss in detail so that you can come to an agreement about debt before you get married. It’s quite common to have different ideas about debt – these usually come from our childhood experiences.

For example, if your parents struggled with debt and you saw the negative impact that had on your family when you were young, you may be staunchly against any kind of debt. If, on the other hand, you haven’t had personal experience of debt, you may have a more relaxed approach to the idea of debt. Coming to an agreement about how you and your future spouse will handle financial situations, including debt, can be achieved by using the Bible as a guide.

This is how the Bible talks about debt. You can see how God views it:

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.

Romans 13:8

The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives.

Psalm 32:21

God has always wanted for us to experience true freedom (John 10:10) but when we are in debt, it’s impossible to be truly free. Debt means that we owe someone else, which gives them a kind of power over us.

If you have a relaxed view of debt, it’s important that you realize that this view isn’t aligned with the word of God. You can pray with your future spouse for help with changing your heart so that you can be more aligned with God’s will for your married life.

No matter what the topic, if you and your future spouse have opposing views, it’s a great idea to look to the Bible for wisdom so that you can both come into agreement with God’s Word.

You can pray and ask God for help if you are experiencing conflict over any issue. When you pray, God will bring answers into areas of confusion and give you the direction that you need to have a happy and healthy marriage.


Intimacy can be a topic that’s uncomfortable to discuss but there’s no need for it to be. It’s really healthy to discuss issues around intimacy. For example, in premarital counseling sessions you could discuss:

  • How frequently do you each desire to be intimate?
  • How are you going to manage any dry spells (e.g. when one of you doesn’t want to have sexual intimacy)?
  • What preferences do you have for intimacy?
  • What are your views about sex?
  • How do you view sexual temptation, and how can it be managed?

Even if discussing these things makes you feel uncomfortable, you still need to talk about them. It’s really important that you and your future spouse understand each other’s thoughts and feelings about intimacy. For example, if you’re not aware that a certain kind of behavior during intimacy is triggering for your partner, you may inadvertently create difficulties with intimacy.

It’s also helpful to talk about things like yours and your partner’s love languages. For some people, whose love language is physical touch, physical intimacy is more important than acts of service. Different love languages create different expectations and needs so knowing your partner’s love language can enable you to meet their needs (and they can meet yours) to create a really healthy marriage.

Intimacy isn’t just limited to sexual intimacy. There’s much more to it than that. You will need to discuss emotional intimacy, too. Everyone is different, and some people (often, although not always, women) like to have a strong emotional and/or intellectual connection (or intimacy) before engaging in physical intimacy.

For example, if your partner desires an emotional connection, it’s important to meet that need. Failing to do so may mean that your partner can’t get “in the mood” for physical intimacy. It may also be that if you’re not affectionate with your partner in public, then he or she may feel rejected and later refuse physical intimacy.

It’s important to explore why you have certain views about intimacy so that any difficulties can be worked through before you are married. It may be that your childhood experiences have impacted on your thoughts about intimacy, for example.


When you’re planning to make a marriage covenant with someone, you need to discuss your thoughts and feelings about spirituality, too. You should discuss:

  • How you think about and/or define spirituality
  • What expectations you have for married life and being involved in a spiritual community
  • Your views on the man as the spiritual leader in the household and how you will navigate this issue in your marriage
  • Whether you share the same views about spirituality

It’s actually really important that you and your future spouse are in agreement about spiritual issues. That’s because the Bible tells us:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living god. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

2 Cor. 6:14-16


Conflict is an issue that can often be directly traced back to your childhood experiences. The conflict you witness in your childhood home can cause you to have maladaptive views about conflict that will need to be explored in premarital counseling.

It’s common to have a variety of experiences of conflict that have shaped your views, and these can lead to a more confrontational approach that causes damage to relationships. It’s important to recognize that conflict can be productive and intimacy-building this is how God intended for conflict to be used.

Good conflict can resolve issues in a positive way that does not demean the other person. This approach is not demoralizing and it’s not about us desiring to be “right” about an issue. At the heart of good conflict is a discussion that takes both sides into consideration before making a decision that you are both able to agree to. This way you’re not working against each other, but working together, in the same direction.

Being in a relationship is like being on a team, and marriage cements that team spirit. This is important to remember when you face conflict about an issue. Because you’re on the same team, it’s counterintuitive to be fighting against each other. You’re both, ultimately, striving for the same goal for your relationship.

That’s not to say that you won’t have different ideas about how to achieve your marriage goals but good conflict can help you to make joint decisions that are good for both of you. You need to adopt a united front in order to achieve your goals.

Accessing Premarital Counseling

There are more issues that you may need to discuss in premarital counseling, but this article has highlighted some of the more important issues that you’ll need to give more time to. If you are getting married in the near future and you want to have premarital counseling to ensure your marriage gets off to a strong start, there are Christian counselors available who can offer a Biblical perspective as well as a psychological one.

You should remember that God intends marriage to bring Him glory. Marriage is designed to mirror the covenant love and relationship that God has with us a constant reminder of how much God cares for us.

In your marriage, you may face challenges, but God is always with you, and He is always rooting for you. When you start premarital counseling with a Christian counselor, you can be sure that God will be invited into the sessions so that He is the foundation stone in your marriage covenant.

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How to Recognize the Signs of Bipolar Depression

The terms “manic depression” and “manic depressive” get tossed around quite a bit. This is despite the fact that the real technical title of the diagnosis got changed to bipolar disorder back in 1980. Bipolar depression exists in the context of a larger bipolar disorder.

While a bipolar disorder may seem like a far-off concept, it may be closer to home than you think. A study by Harvard Medical School in 2007 found that 2.8% of American adults experience bipolar disorder.

In 2013, The American Psychological Association estimated that 0.6% are diagnosed with bipolar I and 0.8% are diagnosed with bipolar II. Considering the larger size of the US, these small percentages show there are plenty of individuals out there suffering from these types of disorder.

What Exactly is Bipolar Disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, there are three types of Bipolar disorder: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder.

Bipolar I Disorder

In order for someone to be diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, they must have experienced one manic episode in their lifetime. (APA, 2013). A manic episode consists of a major increase in energy and an elevated or irritable mood, both of which last for at least a week.

In some circumstances, Bipolar I Disorder will vacillate between moods quickly going from depressed, to angry, to euphoric very quickly.

Symptoms of mania may include (APA, 2013):

  • Higher levels of self-esteem this can be as simply as higher levels of self-confidence and go all the way up to a delusional god complex.
  • Talking more or speaking loudly and rapidly if angry, this may look like a rant.
  • Getting less sleep, but still feeling rested (staying up all night). This lack of sleep, according to the DSM-5 authors, is a common symptom for manic episodes and can foreshadow a manic episode.
  • Ceaseless thoughts
  • More easily distracted
  • Feeling restless
  • Increased activity (e.g., fixation on new hobbies, working all night). An increase in sex drive is also common.
  • Risky behavior (e.g. reckless driving, sexual promiscuity, gambling, shopping binges)

For activity and behavior to be considered a manic episode, the changes in behavior and mood must cause some level of impairment (relationally, financially, physically) or require hospitalization. If significant changes like these are only related to a substance or medical condition, then they are not the result of a bipolar disorder.

An episode of major depression is not always associated with bipolar I disorder. Although, it is not uncommon for someone who has experienced a manic episode to also experience a major depressive episode.

Major Depressive Episode

Bipolar depression is an episode of major depression that takes place in association with a hypomanic or manic episode. A major depressive episode consists of a group of symptoms that are present overtime for at least two weeks. (APA, 2013).

Common symptoms of depression include (APA, 2013):

  • Feeling depressed or in despair
  • Lack of interest in hobbies
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • A sense of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or recurring thinking about death
  • A significant change in weight, either weight loss or weight gain
  • Altered sleep schedule: Either sleeping too much or too little.
  • Decreased psychomotor activity or more agitated psychomotor activity
  • Increased fatigue and feelings of exhaustion

Someone suffering from a major depressive disorder will be considered bipolar if they also experience a manic or hypomanic episode. While the symptoms of mania, or hypomania, can still exist with MDD, the full criteria cannot be met for the diagnosis to remain MDD.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is similar to Bipolar I disorder but with a slight difference. Bipolar II is diagnosed when someone has had both a major depressive episode and a hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is very similar to a manic episode, however, it only needs to last at least four days to be diagnosed. Symptoms of a hypomanic episode are very similar to that of a manic episode but do not cause the same level of impairment or result in hospitalization.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is more complex. This disorder is when someone experiences hypomanic symptoms and a period of depressive symptoms over at least two years, but never experiences the full hypomanic criteria or a major depressive episode.

For children and teenagers, the time frame is shortened to one year. Someone dealing with a cyclothymic disorder will never fully meet the criteria for major depression, a hypomanic episode, or manic episode, making it somewhat harder to diagnose (APA, 2013).

Bipolar Disorders and Suicide

Bipolar disorder is serious because it increases the risk of suicide. It has been shown that people with bipolar disorder are 15 times more likely to commit suicide. (APA, 2013). An even more sobering statistic is that 1 in 3 people diagnosed with a Bipolar II disorder report having attempted to commit suicide during their lifetime (APA, 2013).

Suicide is the greatest risk for those who have previously attempted it and who have experienced depression within a year, according to the DSM 5 authors. Suicidal thoughts will not always be present, but they can be and often are important warning signs of suicidal thinking.

Examples of warning signs include (SAMHSA, 2019; The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2019):

  • Verbalizing thoughts about dying or wanting to commit suicide.
  • Saying they have no reason to keep living
  • Looking up ways to commit suicide
  • A sense of “unbearable pain” or “being trapped”
  • Increased use of substances or alcohol
  • Expressing that they feel like a burden
  • A significant shift in sleep schedule (either more or less than usual)
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Reckless behavior
  • Increased isolation from friends and family
  • Extreme anger, for example, stating a need to get revenge
  • Extreme swings in mood
  • Telling people goodbye
  • Getting rid of belongings
  • Irritability, depression, humiliation
  • Loss of interest in activities

By no means is this list comprehensive, other warning signs can also be present that are not listed. What is important is to remember to seek professional help if you think suicidal thinking is present. If you are aware of someone who is actively suicidal, then you should immediately contact 9-1-1 or go to a local emergency room.

Coping with Bipolar Depression

If you are dealing with the symptom of depression brought on by bipolar disorders, consider these strategies to help you cope:

  • Learn about your diagnosis so you can begin to understand your triggers. A lot of information is available on bipolar disorders and knowing more can help your process and deal with the symptoms. A doctor or therapist can also help you get headed in the right direction.
  • Keep your goals attainable. Depression often makes people lose motivation and interest in life. But giving into a sense of helplessness actually makes depression worse. By making realistic, daily goals, you can help break through some of the despair.
  • Be with people, don’t go this alone. Isolation and loneliness only make depression worse. As relational beings, we are meant to be with people and find support through family and friends. Reach out to your community and find ways to surround yourself with people.
  • Keep track of what is going through your mind. Depression can cause negative thinking, which only makes things worse. Try to analyze your thoughts so you can discern what you are thinking and why.
  • If you’re thoughts feel uncontrollable, mindfulness can help you take back control. Mindfulness can be anything from sitting in silence to meditation, to yoga. There is a lot of free online content that can help you develop the practice of mindfulness.
  • Relaxation exercises like intentional breathing or guided meditation.
  • Exercise has been proven to provide many health benefits. Consult your physician to find out what is best for you.
  • Taking time to process your experience through self-expression (e.g. art, journaling, dance)
  • Reading and meditating on the Bible:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.. – Psalm 143:7-8

How to Treat Bipolar Depression

While it might be tempting to ignore the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it isn’t helpful to do so. If you know someone who is experiencing bipolar disorder symptoms, or see them in yourself, it is best to get diagnosed and receive medical treatment. The disorder will only worsen if untreated. (NAMI, 2019).

To achieve a proper diagnosis, you will need to receive a medical evaluation to ensure it is bipolar disorder and not something else. The treatment for a bipolar disorder will likely be a combination of psychotherapy and medication management.

One of the most effective approaches for treating bipolar disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people how to alter their way of thinking. It allows you to combat negative ways of thinking and behaving, thereby helping you to cope with your emotions in a healthy way.

The role of a therapist is to be an outsider observer who can help you explore what triggers episodes so you can learn to manage your stress and triggers. This can include a variety of different techniques and strategies. Another helpful form of therapy is family therapy because it can teach families about the disorder while also exploring different family dynamics that may lead to increased levels of stress.


Bipolar disorders are no small thing. They can carry very serious consequences. That being said, they are treatable. If you think someone you love is dealing with a bipolar disorder, then get in contact with a counselor today. We are ready to walk with you down the road of healing and growth.

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Do You Recognize These Signs of Codependency?

When someone describes themselves as a “people pleaser,” a counselor’s mind jumps to codependency. Usually, as the sessions progress, it usually comes to light that these self-identifying “people pleasers” have poor boundaries with friends, family, and colleagues, thereby making them feel like they need to meet other people’s need while theirs remain unmet.

Melody Beattie, a leading researcher in the field of codependency, describes the condition in this way:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. – Codependent No More, 1992 ed.

Do you feel confused by that definition? This article will help explain and illustrate this definition later on.

Pia Mellody, another key researcher in the study of codependency has found that codependency makes it difficult to manage the following areas:

  • Maintaining a healthy sense of self-esteem
  • Establishing healthy boundaries
  • Understanding and owning reality for yourself.
  • Self-care, meeting your own wants and needs
  • Not being overwhelmed by life

Regarding self-esteem, Mellody continues explaining, “if codependents have any kind of esteem, it is not self-esteem but other-esteem; which is based on external things” (Facing Codependence, p. 9).

A sense of satisfaction surrounding how others think we look or what others think of us isn’t necessarily wrong, but if we need their approval then we don’t have self-esteem, we have others-esteem. Maybe you are thinking, if this is what constitutes codependency, then aren’t we all codependent?

The reality is a lot of us are codependent to some degree. Technology has not helped. The invention of social media has ingrained comparison and other-esteem into the very fabric of society because social media is all about showing people what we are doing and awaiting their affirmation.

We’ve lost the art of keeping things to ourselves. As we’ve lost the ability to have a private life, we’ve lost our sense of personal worth and value assigned by God. We seek the affirmation of others, living from a place of codependency rather than a place of interdependency.

David Richo states, “In a healthy person, loyalty has its limits and unconditional love can coexist with conditional involvement. Unconditional does not, after all, mean uncritical. You can both love someone unconditionally and place conditions on your interactions to protect your own boundaries.” (How to Be an Adult, 1991, p. 58,).

What this means is that God can love us unconditionally without unconditionally condoning our actions and choices. Approving of our decisions and unconditional love are not the same thing.


A lot of people don’t understand boundaries. Boundaries are not things used to control other people, rather they are opportunities for us to decide how much we will participate with others, depending on the decisions they make. The goal of a boundary is to protect us, not control someone else.

In other words, it’s like when you lock your doors at night. Are you locking them to try to prevent crime and wrongdoing on the streets? Of course not. You are locking them in an attempt to prevent crime and wrongdoing in your home.

Boundaries do the same thing. They keep your sense of self safe. An alcoholic has the right to drink as much as they want to. No one else can make their choices for them.

So a boundary for someone in a relationship with an alcoholic might look like this: “You can drink whenever you want. That is your choice. However, know that if you choose to drink, I will choose to remove myself from the situation to protect myself. I know that if I remain nearby, then I will get hurt, and it is my job to protect myself.”

Some may complain this is manipulation, but that isn’t true. You are simply choosing to behave in a way that protects yourself without trying to control others.

An excellent chapter on boundaries is found in How to Be an Adult by David Richo. In the chapter, he says, “I know I have lost my boundaries and become codependent when: I don’t let go of what doesn’t work, and it feels like I cannot let go of what could possibly/hopefully work. Codependency is unconditional love for someone else that has turned against oneself.” (p. 59)

Boundaries and codependency are interlinked. Codependency is essentially not having healthy boundaries to protect yourself. Often, this stems from low-esteem because you don’t think you have the right or ability to stand up for yourself. As children, we are meant to depend on our caretakers.

As responsible adults, we should, in most circumstances, be able to take care of ourselves and, when we can’t, know when it is appropriate to ask for help. This is concerning a human dynamic. When it comes to God and us, we must recognize that he is the only person who can meet our every need on a spiritual level.

It is important to understand that being codependent doesn’t mean you are defective, bad, or hopeless. Most of the time, we learn to be codependent through our early life and family experiences. The lack of boundaries, low self-esteem, enmeshment, and other unhealthy behavior we see in ourselves were likely modeled for us at home.

The experience is only more intense for someone in a relationship with an addict. It may feel like the addiction has taken control of you and your relationship, making it feel impossible to break free from the codependency due to your love for the addict.

You may not have had a choice growing up. Codependency may have begun as a way of surviving, but we need to realize when it is damaging us and no longer helpful. If we don’t, it will remain a pervasive and unhealthy presence, preventing us from living from a healthy, confident place.

So what does it look like to have healthy boundaries?

David Richo provides an excellent summary of what they look like (see p. 59-60 in How to Be an Adult):

  • A big part of healthy boundaries is asking for what you want and going to get it. By doing so, you claim your identity and reveal it to others, creating a sense of liberation rather than isolation, bitterness, or fear.
  • Take care of yourself and receive love from God. Ask God for discernment and courage to know when a relationship has become toxic and no longer a safe place for you. Having a good support system is key for you to get helpful feedback about what is going on in your life ( therapists, friends, groups, etc).
  • Look at how other people treat you and analyze the behavior. Don’t get bogged down in the emotion and tension instead of from a place of confidence decide how you will let yourself be treated.
  • Face the fact that you may be intoxicated by unhealthy relationships, looking for love in all the wrong places. Hold a bottomline of how much pain, lying, and hurt you are willing to put up with in a relationship. Keep track of how others treat you and fight for yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • As we grow up, we need to learn and understand that God is the only person we can trust fully. Human beings can and will fail us. And we can and will fail those around us. But we need to learn to trust our self, knowing we are worthy of love and not letting other people or our pain define us.

Being part of a healthy relationship means investing in other people, giving up some of our power, without our identities being diminished. We love and surrender parts of ourselves as lovers, not as powerless victims. If we live as victims at the mercy of others, we will be unable to protect ourselves and live from a place of reaction rather than self-confidence.

Common Signs of Codependency

Professionals don’t fully agree on the defining characteristics of codependency, but usually look for these key signs when determining if someone is dealing with codependency (adapted from Melody Beattie’s definition in Codependent No More):

  • Taking responsibility for other people’s thoughts, feelings, choices, or behaviors
  • Finding a sense of value in “saving” other people from their own choices
  • Doing things because you are expected to and saying yes when you really want to say no
  • Being more concerned about other people’s wants/needs instead of your own
  • Experiencing Uneasiness or guilt when someone helps you
  • Being disappointed and sad when your whole life is spent serving others, while nobody serves you
  • Finding yourself drawn to needy individuals and needy individuals being drawn to you
  • Experiencing boredom or a lack of purpose if nothing is going wrong.

Melody Beattie then describes how low self-worth typically manifests for a codependent person:

  • Tend to come from troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional families and deny this fact
  • Blame themselves for everything
  • Reject compliments
  • Feel guilty about doing something good for themselves
  • Fear rejection
  • Take things personally
  • Have been victims of emotional, sexual, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment or drug/alcohol addictions
  • Their inner-dialogue consists almost solely of negative self-talk
  • Indecisiveness
  • Help others instead of helping themselves
  • Live with a pervasive sense of hopelessness that good things will happen to them
  • Settle for being needed while believing others won’t love them

Jesus promised us a life of abundance, not a life making it through. This doesn’t mean we won’t have trouble or trials, but a Christ centered life has him a source of unconditional love, acceptance, and validation.

When we live from this place, a place of abundance, we can give love and care to others. If we live from a place of scarcity and searching for validation from other people, then we won’t have anything to give anyone.

Do you remember the famous passage where Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourself? We rarely ever talk about how that command is predicated on the idea that we already love ourselves. Some people think that we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love others, but the truth is that we already do love ourselves. Just as we feed, clothe, and nurture our own bodies, so we are to show love to others by seeing to their needs.

When we give anything, it should be done from a place of abundance, not scarcity. If we think we lack acceptance, love, etc., then it is difficult to give those things to anyone. Instead, we will always be looking to other people to fill us up with love and acceptance, which can only be found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

If reading this article, you resonated with the signs and characteristics of codependency, resulting in depression, anxiety, and general apathy in your life, then reach out to a counselor. A trained professional can help you figure out what is at the root of your issues.

Dealing with symptoms is helpful, but can’t ultimately fix the problem. To really deal with the issues, you will need a counselor to help you process your life and story in order to develop a healthy sense of self. Reach out to us to day to start your journey of healing!

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The Four Communication Styles: Which One Are You?

There are four general communication styles: assertive, aggressive, passive and passive-aggressive. These categories provide a solid base when discussing communication styles.

It’s true that communication style can vary depending on situation, mood or who you are conversing with. However, most people revert to one of the four communication styles mentioned above. Once you are aware of how you tend to communicate, you can begin taking measures to improve your communication skills.

What’s Your Communication Style?

Let’s discuss each communication style to see which one you relate to the most.


Someone who exhibits an aggressive communication style normally disregards the feelings, emotions, and perspectives of others. This person is laser-focused on their own feelings and views.

Communicating aggressively can come off as being abrasively honest without caring about how that abrasive honestly might be received by the other person. Honesty is a key component to having beneficial communication, but when someone incorporates aggressiveness into their communication style honesty can come off as condemning or blatantly rude.

An example of this might be saying to your roommate who is always leaving messes around the house, “You always leave your filthy clothes on the floor! You are dirty and lazy.” This might be partially true, but the way you delivered the message will only cause the conflict to escalate and not come to a peaceful agreement on next steps.

Those who communicate aggressively come off as attackers to the one on the receiving end. This causes problems because once someone feels attacked or blamed they either become defensive or withdraw which are not healthy for constructive communication. Tempers end up flaring, people say words they regret and a bigger mess is the result.

Hostility, anger, and stubbornness are also qualities often used to describe aggressive communication. Instead of seeking to understand opposing views, aiming for compromise or extending respect for other people in the conversation, aggressive communicators tend to be unwilling to budge in their perspective. Their ability to compromise is lacking.

It doesn’t end at verbal communication either. People who tend to have aggressive communication styles have hostile body language too. This body language coupled with their harsh words can cause fear in others who end up bending to their wishes. Aggressive communication may get you what you want in the short-term, but over time it destroys relationships.


A person who communicates passively normally denies their own desires, emotions or opinions. They feel like their voice doesn’t matter and may take the blame for everything, even when it’s not their fault.

You can recognize passive communication if a person constantly apologizes, is a doormat to what other people want, and puts the emotions of others before their own. Let’s take a look at the roommate who leaves clothes all over the house.

A passive person might say, “It doesn’t matter to me. You are so busy.” This deters the communicator from getting their needs met. They desire for the clothes to be picked up, but they want to avoid confrontation, hard conversations or rocking the boat.

It often means that the person sacrifices their needs to keep the peace. This person can become like a volcano about to erupt. After suppressing their true feelings and thoughts they end up exploding suddenly.


Passive-aggressive communication style is described as using a passive communication style initially, but later using subtle, aggressive forms of non-direct communication.

Let’s take a look again at the roommate with clothes strewn on the floor. The passive-aggressive communicator might say, “This floor sure does have a lot of dirty clothes on it.” Instead of directly asking the roommate to clean up the clothes or even brainstorming ways to keep the area tidy, the passive-aggressive communicator speaks in a non-direct manner.

The also might opt to say anything and then burn with anger internally the longer the clothes are on the ground. This communication style can be received as manipulative or dishonest and can create constant tension in relationships.


Everybody looks to assertive communication as the ultimate communication style to create healthy and growing relationships. Assertive communication is direct, clear and leaves no ambiguity. The assertive communicator is able to show respect for other people while maintaining their own beliefs and feelings.

Assertive communication seeks to both understand and be understood. This person doesn’t have to fight to be right but is able to find a compromise. Of course, compromise isn’t always the answer and there are times and circumstances when you should stand your ground on a subject and have firm boundaries. It’s important to do this in an assertive way rather than an aggressive way. An assertive communicator can identify when to cool down and allow some time before responding.

Keeping the above statement in mind, an assertive communicator might say, “I noticed that you continue to leave your clothes on the ground in our shared space which leaves me frustrated when I get home. I know you’ve had a hectic schedule lately, but is there a way we can keep the house tidy on a consistent basis?”

An assertive communicator focuses on nonverbal communication as well which may mean displaying a safe smile or refraining from using a sarcastic tone when speaking.

Active Listening

Active listening is crucial during communication. Active listeners aren’t thinking about what they need to do after the conversation or what they want to say next. Active listening is giving your full attention to someone, trying to understand what they are saying, and showing that you are engaged in the conversation.

This creates a productive conversation. The two parties end up feeling heard and respected. It compels the other person to model the same level of respect when it’s your turn to talk. Active listening creates an environment of safety and promotes healthy communication. Both parties can be vulnerable without fear or repercussions.

Here are a few ways to practice effective active listening:

  1. If you notice your mind beginning to wander (thinking about dinner), gently redirect it back to what the person is sharing. Active listening does take work, especially in today’s distracted world, but once you master it you will notice an improvement in your relationships.
  2. Don’t disregard their body language. It’s not always what they are saying, but how they say it. Take the full picture into account as you seek to understand the message being sent.
  3. Avoid thinking ahead to what you want to say next. This can happen almost without you noticing. You must be aware when your thoughts are not aligned with what the person is sharing. The more you practice, the better you will become.
  4. You can show you’re engaged with the conversation by nodding your head or encouraging the speaker to continue to share. Feedback is important in communication and these are small ways to not interrupt the speaker, but still, show you are with them. Avoid showing disinterest by checking your phone, looking at your watch or even staring out the window. Your body language will speak loudly during active listening moments.
  5. Summarize what the person has said at the end of the conversation. If the speaker didn’t ask for your advice, shy away from offering your advice. Instead of offering advice, you can repeat what you heard. If someone tells you their boyfriend doesn’t call them every night. Instead of saying, “It sounds like you are not a priority to him.” It’s better to say, “It sounds really hurtful that he doesn’t call every night to talk to you.” She might tell you that she’s not hurt, but annoyed instead. This puts you guys on the same page.
  6. Ask open-ended questions to draw out more to the conversation. In the above scenario, an open-ended question would be, “How can I support you as you navigate this relationship?” This gives the speaker time to reflect and build on what they are sharing. They will draw their own conclusion and may have specific revelations that weren’t there before.
  7. Validate the person who is speaking even if you aren’t in complete agreement. Validation shows empathy and helps a person feel heard even if you disagree with each other. Let’s say a person thinks her boss is unfair. However, you have a different perspective that person on the boss in question. You can still say, “It sounds like you are having a hard time a work and I’m sorry to hear about the frustration.”

Concluding Thoughts

Communication is complex and vast. There are many strategies and techniques to try depending on the person, situation and context. Everybody makes communication mistakes. A good place to start is by paying attention to how others make you feel in situations. Do you feel validated? Understood? Respected?

You can learn from the situations that leave you feeling heard and the ones that leave you feeling misunderstood. Begin implementing what works and avoid what doesn’t work. If you feel supported when someone smiles, nods and makes eye contact, you can experiment with these same strategies.

If you find yourself annoyed when a friend is constantly on their phone or saying “Yeah” too often during communication, you can avoid this in your approach. Lastly, pay attention to your interactions to identify which relationships have healthy communication and which relationships have room to grow. If you want extra support in growing in your communication skills, reach out to a counselor today.

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