Christian Marriage Counseling to Save Your Marriage

So, God has led you to seek Christian values that can help pull your marriage back from the brink or even help someone you know to save theirs. Hopefully, God will use these tips to help restore your marriage and bring about much good.

Four Useful Tips that Could Save Your Marriage

These tips are based on professional experience and will hopefully encourage couples to work toward strong, healthy marriages that can go the distance. To that end, there are applicable principles from God’s word that can guide couples to a more fulfilling marriage.

The tips in this post are a blend of Christian principles and counseling practices that can make a real difference to couples seeking long-term happiness and seeking to avoid the detrimental effects of divorce.

Tip #1: Recognize that love is a decision

New relationships are full of strong feelings when they first begin. The Greeks referred to this kind of love as “Eros.” Physical attraction in addition to personal qualities creates the fantasy of romantic love. Fantasy is a specific word used here to emphasize the fact that in the early days of a relationship it is doubtful whether you really know someone.

Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, hypothesizes that people are attracted to those who have the sort of visible qualities that match the kind of person who will meet their unmet needs for love.

He also points out that individuals also select a spouse with qualities that contrast with objects of love from their personal lives, such as parents. In theory, spouses seek to obtain love from a person who feels familiar but who does not give all of the love that they need.

Hendrix suggests that this attraction is developed in the unconscious and acts as a sort of drive to seek the wholeness that one shared in their mother’s womb. As love develops the romantic qualities tend to dim. As an individual concludes that, realistically, their spouse is incapable of always meeting all of their needs, this romantic mode tends to shift to one that of frustration, jeopardizing the relationship.

The Greeks also had a name for love that is selfless: “agape” (agápē). This kind of love gives regardless of whether it is reciprocated or not. The Bible speaks extensively about this type of love. Matthew 16:18 tells the story of how Jesus changed Peter’s name to “Rock” long before it ever suited him. Jesus knew what sort of man he would become after Jesus’ death on the cross.

This model should be applied to your marriage, that of sacrificial love with a forward-looking view of your spouse’s true potential as a response to your love for them. Your spouse can experience the short-term effects that criticizing and demanding change in them can bring.

However, these short-lived efforts to force change do not coincide with the love that is needed to withstand the struggles in marriages today. A more realistic goal would be to take the time to seriously consider your spouse’s personal weaknesses and then make sacrificial investments of your time and energy to make them feel the confidence that comes from being loved despite those weaknesses.

Even though you sometimes may feel that your spouse may not deserve it, it is imperative that you continue to remember how God blesses everyone with such agape love daily. This marital investment proves more fruitful to marriage success. All it takes is a strong commitment to sacrificially loving your spouse.

Tip #2: Get your desires under control

John Gottman, a well-known couples counselor, explains how marriages fall apart via a description of what he refers to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

The common thread running between these poisons of marriage is that they objectivize marital problems for the person who is suffering from the issue.

In chapter 4, verses 1-4 James promotes a much more subjective view of solving conflict in relationships. James understands that at the root of all relational conflict lies a frustrated desire stemming from people not seeking God’s guidance to fulfill this desire.

This passage is full of practical wisdom! From a couple’s perspective, most conflicts are a result of each partner saying what they really need or want to see change. This verse encourages couples to seek God’s guidance through prayer and Bible study before it ever reaches their spouse’s ears.

This removes the shaming and blaming out of conflicts and spouses focus more on using God’s word, examining their own desires in faith that God will lead them to negotiations that are beneficial to both parties (Psalm 37:4). Ultimately, God becomes the agent of change in marriages, as opposed to the worldly thoughts and actions of His servants.

When a wife speaks to her husband in a harsh way, for example, he will feel that she does not disrespect him. His first thought, according to the James 4 passage, should be, “Am I trusting God to fulfill my desire for respect?” One should seek guidance through prayer or Bible study to learn from cases where God displayed love to mankind despite their disrespect to Him.

The unresolved desire for respect in marriages may surface when one is insecure. However, God has an answer for this. Matthew 20:26 relates Jesus’ teaching that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”

This passage speaks volumes about what actions are needed to solve this desire dilemma. Keeping in mind the qualities of a humble servant in the middle of marriage conflicts can lead to more fruitful resolutions.

To align one’s desires with God’s, you have to read your Bible and look for teaching that shows how God wants you to relate to your desires.

Tip #3: Marriage first, but only after God

Marriage is an ordinance that God has given to His servants to sanctify them in this life. North Point Community Church pastor, Andy Stanley, commented on relationships in his recent sermon, “Pack Your Bags: Now And Then” explaining sleeping around before marriage is a lousy idea.

Unselfishly honoring and committing to one person lays the foundation for a successful marriage. Many today believe that one must live together in a sexual relationship with someone before deciding if enough compatibility exists to get married. True intimacy begins with a committed marriage relationship, rather than self-interest.

Proverbs 5:15 says, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.” Marriage is to be a sacred institution. As one commentator remarks: “Solomon urges his disciples to follow after purity in the married life; he pictures in vivid terms the delights which it affords as compared with the pleasures of sin.”

Life is full of things that occupy our time and attention such as work, entertainment, children, etc. It is easy to place other things before our marriage relationship.

There are a lot of couples with unresolved conflicts over unmet needs, for example, where one partner is too focused on the kids and the other one is a workaholic. It is only after the kids become adults, and leave the home, that the couple may come to realize that neglect of each other’s needs has degraded the intimacy of the relationship.

How does one go about putting their marriage first? Here a few practices that are tried and true:

  • Pray with and for each other regularly.
  • Let each other know what you are learning in your walk with God.
  • Deliver more encouragement than criticism.
  • Find ways to build your spouse’s confidence where they are insecure.
  • Talk daily. Get out on dates regularly.
  • Read books about marriage
  • Find something to do for which you have a mutual interest.
  • Never commit adultery (either physical or emotional)

Finally, if you believe that you are not making progress, consider seeking professional help.

Tip #4: Let the change start with you

Relational demands can lead to reciprocal behaviors in marriage that begin to display a pattern as time goes on. Although this establishment of patterns is intended to keep a healthy balance in the marriage, some patterns can end up causing dysfunction in the relationship. Where a husband is totally focused on himself, for example, his wife may be left without any avenue for expressing her thoughts and emotions to him.

While her husband considers her dutiful with regard to sex and doesn’t request much in the way of deep emotional bonding, balance will continue to exist in the relationship. Over time, however, dysfunctions in the relationship will begin to surface as the wife struggles with finding happiness with an emotionally distant husband.

Dysfunction can manifest in a number of ways, such as eating to excess, too much focus on the kids, adultery, anger issues, depression, or even pursuing divorce. At that point, the question then becomes one of how to change dysfunctional patterns that have accumulated in the marriage.

Identifying your role in causing the dysfunction is the first step toward bringing about change. Because patterns of family behavior tend to be cyclical, initial efforts by one spouse to bring about change will likely meet stiff resistance.

However, if one spouse can work diligently to change the things that are their fault and interrupt this cycle with personal change, their partner will naturally undergo personal change as well. This cycle is then redirected to a new balance point in the marriage.

So in the example listed above, the wife may begin trying to express her desires for romance in the relationship. She may suggest a boundary such as, “I feel more like being romantic with you when you have invested time and energy into talking and spending time with me.”

Stung, the husband might protest, “But all you want to do is talk about everything in minute detail. Nothing I do is sufficient.” The wife might then reply, “I get that this may be difficult, but if you want me to be as interested in romance as you are, then I expect you to work hard at improving our communication.”

Should the wife use this style of open communication and remain firm, her husband will ultimately have to make a choice either to increase emotional communication with his wife, or remain the same, and subject his marriage to possible pitfalls.

1 Corinthians 7:3 is a verse that is often misinterpreted by one or both of a marriage. In it, Paul warns husbands and wives not to withhold sex from each other. Frequently taken out of context in this verse is the additional expectation of commitment to mutual spiritual growth. What this verse does not teach is that making insensitive demands on each other is okay.

How Christian Marriage Counseling Can Help Save Your Marriage

Even though these tips may sound simple, one should not draw the conclusion that fixing problems in your marriage will be easy. The tips mentioned above should be viewed as general principles that will take time and a lot of practice to apply to your particular marriage. Some individuals come into marriages with the baggage of a complicated life history and variety of dynamics. Often struggle with patterns of dysfunction that they have built up over long periods of time.

Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.” Having an outsider to diffuse potentially tense situations and give insight into how the patterns of dysfunction work can be a big help on your road to marital health. Bringing Biblical principles to bear by means of Christian marriage counseling can help married couples experience stronger romantic love.

References

Gottman, John. 1994. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.
Hendrix, Harville. 2001. Getting the Love You Want.
Photos

“In Love,” courtesy of ambroochizafar, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Love on a Bench,” Courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr.com, CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “God-Centered”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Trouble”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Parenting Tips for the Frustrated Parent

Unlike adults who are usually able to communicate what they feel, young children often react differently especially when they wish to express their negative feelings. Instead of talking in a calm manner, they may instead pout, argue or even fight. Rather than saying “I’m hungry” or “This is bothering me,” they yell or throw a tantrum instead.

It can really be frustrating to be at home hoping for a quiet evening, yet the kids are constantly misbehaving, quarreling with each other, or answering back at you in an inappropriate way. As a parent, you may be wondering why the children cannot follow simple commands or why they intentionally seem to be ignoring your rules.

While it may seem natural to blame the kids for their hard-headedness, sometimes it is the incorrect or inconsistent way that we have communicated the do’s and don’ts which is causing them to behave the way they do. Fortunately, this can be changed.

Helpful, Therapeutic Parenting Tips

When dealing with children (and even adults!), there are three very important things to remember: unconditional positive regard, faith in the person’s potential to change, and empathy. If these are not factored in there will be a lot of difficulty in creating positive change.

When interacting with their children, parents must convey unconditional positive regard. What this means is that parents must be able to listen to the positive and negative experiences of the children without branding them as “good” or “bad”.

If this can be done, then the children will feel safe when sharing their feelings and experiences. If not, the kids may hold back from telling the entire truth, preventing change from occurring.

Next, parents must remember that their children have the potential to change while they are still young and there is still time to transform. If parents remember this, there will be less pressure on parents to “make the kids understand and learn now.”

Remembering this potential to change will also encourage a positive partnership with the children so that they may grow and transform at the proper pace. Without this, parents will really feel the stress of not having well-behaved kids and this, in turn, will affect them as there will be a sense of disappointment emanating from the parents.

Lastly, parents need to empathize with their kids and NOT ignore their feelings. If children feel that importance is given to what they are going through, they will feel valued and seen. Without this, they may feel unloved and may harbor resentment towards their parents.

The Proper Way to Set Limits for the Kids

The method to follow is from the ACT model of Garry Landreth, a leading specialist in play therapy. The three parts of this model are: Acknowledge the child’s feelings, Communicate the limit, and Target the alternatives. Here, however, there is an additional final step for Consequences.

1. Acknowledge the child’s feelings

Here you reflect to your son or daughter what you believe they are feeling or thinking to create a connection with them. Do this by attuning yourself to your child’s words, body language and facial expressions. If done properly, your child will feel that you really understand what they are going through. This also connects their emotions to their actions or behavior which is a crucial step to change.

For example:

  • “I know you are angry at your dad and me. You want to throw your toys at us.”
  • “I know you are mad about not finishing your TV show. You want to turn off the TV now.”

2. Communicate the limit

But though their feelings have been acknowledged, it is important that they know they cannot cross a certain boundary. The parents are not telling their child it is not okay to be angry or upset. Instead, they are saying that despite the negative feelings, they are not allowed to behave in the wrong manner.

For example:

  • … “But you cannot just throw toys at people, especially your mom and dad.”
  • … “But you cannot just turn the TV off if mom and dad are watching something.”

3. Target Alternatives

Once the harmful behavior has been stated, an alternative must be given to redirect the child’s anger or frustration. The child’s desire to lash out is a natural feeling, even for adults, but the child must learn that the feeling must and can be expressed in a responsible way.

For example:

  • … “You can hit your pillow instead.”
  • … “You can yell in your room instead.”

While choices are part of the method, setting limits is more than just that. At an early age, if the child knows that there are choices available, the child will begin to differentiate between acting on impulse and opting for proper behavior. This allows them to control their actions in the future.

Additionally, when the child is able to learn the differences, there is less burden on the parents to always control their child’s behavior in social situations. The parent is essentially thinking and communicating that their child has the potential to understand and change their behavior, provided the parents are patient and consistent in what is taught and what is expected.

4. The Consequences

A final step involves consequences as most children may not always follow right away. Should the child choose to cross the boundary despite the acknowledged feelings, the communicated limit, and a provided alternative; then a consequence may be given.

For example:

  • … “Since you chose to throw your toys, you cannot play with them this afternoon.”
  • … “Since you turned off the TV, you will not be allowed to watch cartoons after dinner.”

Though it may seem awkward at first, as time goes by, this method of communicating the appropriate behavior and resulting consequences will become more natural, especially when the parent sees the effects on their child’s behavior.

Many parents have used this method on their kids and have seen amazing results. Not only does it allow children to face and overcome difficult emotions and behaviors, it also allows parents to view their children in a more positive light, knowing that their children can change.

Photos:
“Girl,” courtesy of Patrick Fore, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reconciled,” courtesy of Eye for Ebony, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fearful Boy”, Courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Upset,” courtesy of Theorivierenlaan, pixabay.com, CC0 License

Advice for Parents on Dealing with Teen Issues with Grace

Parenting is always a very demanding task especially when your children are in their adolescent stage. Generally, this stage lasts from the age of about eight to twenty-five years and may be challenging and tough for both teens and their parents.

During this critical stage, as teens struggle to find their own footing in the world, parents and the family, in general, may find it difficult to adjust themselves to accommodate their changing child.

For the parents, surviving their child’s adolescence is never easy. To reduce the stress caused by the adolescent child, they should put into practice the following tips from Carl Pickhardt’s book, Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence.

Advice for Parents Dealing with Teen Issues

Here are five tips for parenting teen issues with grace:

Never take it personally.

Pickhardt likens the adolescent age to your dog abruptly changing into a cat. You are now enjoying the companionship of your dog but suddenly find yourself dealing with a testy cat. In this stage, parents can’t ever know enough about their child, though their contribution is of great importance. As a parent, it is always tempting to attach one’s worth to the child’s behavior and success despite the fact that your worth is not dependent on that of your child.

To link your worth as a parent to your child’s success can leave you disappointed and feeling as though you have failed since your teens will have to face challenges which may be out of your control as a parent. The best thing that a parent can do is to support them through these adolescent years. Through the help of your spouse, friends and ultimately God’s help and guidance, you can rest assured that you will achieve your best.

Set realistic goals and expectations.

All parents expect that their precious children will always a source of joy, but in this stage, the majority of the teens will always try to distance themselves from their family and parents. Defiance will also be part of this and lack of communication will follow in some cases. Unfortunately, these behaviors will affect parents in one form or another.

Ignorance is something else that manifests itself during adolescence making a child less communicative, leaving the parent in the dark about certain things. Another major reality is withdrawal. Teens want to have more time for themselves and this annoys parents who like spending time with their children.

Being aware of these behaviors in the transition from childhood to being independent adults, parents should understand and tolerate the behavior of their children. Controlling your child’s actions and decisions at this stage may not be easy and therefore parents should be accommodative.

Know what the purpose is.

In life, everything has its specific purpose and this season is meant to transition your child from being dependent to being an independent individual. This is where teens differentiate themselves from their parents and in this gradual process they develop a sense of self-independence which prepares them to live their own independent lives away from parental supervision.

The role of role of the parents is to prepare their children to become thriving and successful adults. In this adolescent stage, conflicts may occasionally arise and this will offer a chance for you to teach them how to navigate differing values and disagreements in life. This is a key thing that they have to learn as they become independent since they will have to resolve conflicts when they are. Transitions in life are difficult for everyone and they can be uncomfortable, scary and even stressful, so parents need to understand the feelings of their kids.

Boost the self-esteem of your teen.

This is something that you can easily achieve as a parent. You need to look for opportunities to build their esteem at this critical stage. Most of them always face moments of loneliness and discouragement regularly. As a parent, you should provide a place where they fell lifted up and encouraged. Always endeavor to share their joy by encouraging them to achieve their dreams and by regularly being engaged in their activities.

Eight Anchors of Adolescent Growth

In his book, Pickhardt outlines these issues which are important to parents who want to make some significant changes in how they parent their children in adolescence.

  1. Completing homework. Homework is an excellent way to practice how to complete daily tasks, even those that one dislikes. Punctuality and self-discipline are important things that kids need to have in future.
  2. Cleaning up their room. Cleaning one’s room is the hallmark of teenage years and this develops their sense of responsibility and the need to maintain their personal space and to be careful in what they do.
  3. Being part of events and family gatherings. Sometimes this may not be taken well by your adolescent kids since they prefer to spend most of their time with friends. However, as a wise parent, take your time and remind them of the importance of being close to the family.
  4. Saving money. Emphasizing the necessity of managing one’s personal finances to your teens is of great significance since it teaches restraint and the principles of wise spending.
  5. Developing proficiency. Pickhardt states that “Developing proficiency of knowledge of skill nurtures confidence that many adolescents sorely need.” The parent should always take a responsibility of encouraging peers to be committed to acquiring certain skills and developing their confidence in those areas like sports or singing in the church choir.
  6. Attending their daily chores. Completing their daily chores on time may indicate how responsible your teens are. All the mature members of the should see to it that the teens finish their chores within the set time frame. Pickhardt argues that the chores have to be completed on time without giving teens any allowances.
  7. Being involved in voluntary community service. Being engaged in community services regularly prompts the teens to think about others and the importance of assisting them in various ways.
  8. Relating to adults or mentors. This is one of the areas where parents need to model behavior and perception of things in their teenagers. They must make sure that they are linked to God-fearing adults who not only became friends but also great mentors in life. This gives your children a different focus from what is taught to them by their fellow immature peers, and hopefully, this will transform them in many ways.

Parenting through teen issues is not a simple task, but it is an exhausting process with many ups and downs. Sometimes one may feel as if it will last forever and other days as though it’s just flying by. But wherever you are on this journey of raising teens, remain focused, set healthy goals and find ways of establishing the Eight Anchors of Adolescence. Hopefully, these tips will positively impact your Christian upbringing of teens.

Reference
Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence, by Carl PickhardtPhotos
“Attitude”, Courtesy of Augusto Lotti, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Getting it Done,” courtesy of Cathryn Lavery, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Facing change,” courtesy of Suleman Mukhtar, pexels.com, CC0 License; “M does homework…” Courtesy of Jolante van Hemert, Flickr.com, CC 2.0 License

Dealing with a Fear of Abandonment: Symptoms and Solutions

Fear of abandonment is a primal universal fear, as humans were born to be socially connected to one another. At the very start of life, infants are already hardwired to attach to their primary caregivers. The survival of a young infant or even toddler depends entirely on them. If basic needs are not met, then a high level of anxiety is created.

Moreover, should something happen to the caregivers or should the caregivers’ attitudes suddenly change, the child is then no longer able to feel the care as before, causing even more trauma. If this loss (e.g. – the death of a parent, divorce) or change in attitude (e.g. – abuse) is permanent, then the child internalizes the fear of abandonment.

Everyone experiences some form of abandonment, but not everyone’s experience is severe. However, for those who underwent something traumatic, the personal impact can really cripple their life. Without proper treatment, abandonment wounds can severely affect the way a person is able to function. It cripples the way they handle interpersonal relationships and personal joy is sapped.

Fear of Abandonment: Common Causes

Abandonment issues are intense fears of losing someone close to you. They originate from past experiences that left you alone or uncared for. In that past experience, you were made to fend for yourself, developing a distrust of others and a sense of self-pity for not being loved.

Those who have been abandoned feel cut off from what Susan Anderson, an abandonment research expert, calls “life-sustaining support.” She believes it is a “cumulative wound,” meaning that all the negative events of your childhood up to the present are collected and reignited when triggered.

The causes of this are many. The primary ones are connected to problematic parenting, such as:

  • Children who felt deserted because of death, divorce, or being left in the hands of others (e.g. foster care, raised by relatives, even daycare);
  • Children who felt discarded due to physical, emotional or sexual abuse;
  • Children who felt neglected as basic needs were not met for some reason.

There are, however, other forms which are less recognizable but still very impactful, for instance:

  • Children who could not connect to parents who had a mental illness or had addictions;
  • Children who had doubts due to caregivers’ unavailability due to prolonged absences (e.g. out of town trips) or late nights at work;
  • Children who felt ignored as they were left to solve issues on their own without guidance;
  • Children who felt imperfect due to relentless teasing by siblings or other relatives;
  • Children, particularly teens, who felt insecure due to constant criticism;
  • Children who felt isolated due to chronic illnesses or disabilities;
  • Teenagers who felt rejected due to peer rejection, a romantic break-up, or prolonged singleness.

Fear of Abandonment: Common Symptoms

As there are several possible causes of abandonment, here are seven common symptoms of abandonment issues to look out for in yourself or people you know and love.

1. Chronic Insecurities

Abandonment destroys the self-esteem. Though it is not their fault, they often believe it is, thinking that there must be something within that makes them unlovable and worthless. Children are egocentric thinkers and are particularly vulnerable to believing such things, so they grow up thinking that they are not worth respecting and they have this inescapable feeling that if things go wrong in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, that they are to blame.

2. Reenacting Trauma

An unfortunate result of childhood abandonment is the possibility of experiencing the same thing in adulthood. Deep inside there is a core belief that, “I will always be abandoned.”

Reenactment is a subconscious effort to resolve trauma. Because of this, suchpersons subconsciously place themselves in situations where abandonment may occur again. They are usually attracted to the “wrong” people despite clear advice from friends against the idea. Such “wrong” people are often reckless, noncommittal, or unavailable so eventually, the relationship stops working.

In other cases, former victims are the ones driving others away by being overly cautious, standoffish, or extremely clingy. Moreover, they may be projecting their insecurities onto their loved one, saying to them, “You will leave me. You do not truly love me.” As they fear being abandoned, they may not want any commitments; they may wish to ensure that those they love cannot escape them, or they are preparing themselves for another loss.

3. Pervasive Unworthiness

Those who have been abandoned experience the raw emotional pain of feeling worthless. They feel undesired and unlovable. Imagining a good life is next to impossible as they do not believe they deserve such.

This unworthiness extends even to their judgments and actions. As they believe that they are not good enough, should anything go wrong, they blame themselves first.

4. Heightened Emotional Sensitivity

The trauma of abandonment affects the brain. They have become extremely emotional to anything that triggers rejection such as criticism, disagreement, exclusion, neglect, or ridicule. Once triggered, they may experience emotional hijacking (a term coined by David Goleman), where the emotional part of the brain takes over the rational side. When this occurs, the person is overpowered by emotions.

5. Distrust

Being rejected by a loved one makes a person feel helpless. Because of this, they grow up realizing that they cannot truly depend upon the people around them since they were hurt already in the past.

To cope with this, those with abandonment wounds may choose to become self-sufficient since they doubt the ability of others to care for them. They may decide to do things themselves and keep others from becoming too close. Such people may portray an aura of toughness and are vigilant and even suspicious of others’ motives.

6. Mood Swings

Abandonment brings about much depression and anxiety. Oftentimes to protect their inner self, victims try to detach themselves from the people and world around them. This, however, causes them to feel empty, lost and alone. Paranoia of loved ones leaving them is another result.

Thus, some become very obsessive and jealous. Anger arises when people are too busy and sometimes this busyness is linked to thoughts of that loved one being with someone else. These people are generally defensive, disconnected, and feel misunderstood.

7. Self-Sabotaging Relationships

This fear of abandonment greatly affects relationships in adulthood as they do not really know what they want or how to achieve it. They desperately cling to people as they are afraid to be left behind and yet they are also afraid to get too close as intimacy scares them.

Intimacy dodgers fear being controlled and then discarded by another. They do not want their heart to be crushed again. Others, however, cannot handle the intimacy. So even if they have found real love, they decide to leave first. In this way, they cannot be fully rejected.

In the end, their life becomes a vicious cycle of love and abandonment.

Christian Counseling for Abandonment Issues

Fear of abandonment can ruin a person’s life, as social connections are either abusive or cut short because of insecurities and anxiety. The good news, however, is that there are ways to overcome it.

If you or a loved one has experienced abandonment, then a Christian counselor San Diego can help to overcome the past, learn to trust again, and accept the truth that you are a wonderful person created by an all-loving God.

Photos
“Sadness,” courtesy of Dmitry Kallnin, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Alone,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Alone,” courtesy of Jiri Wagner, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Overwhelmed,” courtesy of Blake Connally, unsplash.com, CC0 License 

3 Excuses People Make for Having an Affair

When we think of a married person having an affair, we think of lack of integrity. Some may consider adultery to be caused by a spouse falling out of love or failing to provide the love that is deserving or satisfying in a marriage.

However, Jesus tells us that “…out of the heart come evil thoughts…adultery, sexual immorality…” (Matt. 15:19). So the real question is, “What is in your heart?” Are you the sort of person who tries to blame their sin on others? In short, are you a covenant keeper or a covenant breaker?

Excuses People Make for Having An Affair

1. My spouse doesn’t look good anymore.

There are some who believe that when wives “let themselves go” they are to blame, in part, for the adulterous behavior of their husbands. However, first, one should consider the reasons that these wives “let themselves go.”

Is there something happening in the marriage that causes these women not to feel the need to look nice anymore? Typically, wives do not simply stop trying to look good because they have “caught” a husband and think that he is now obligated to stay in the marriage despite how they may look.

They may be less motivated to present themselves to the best of their ability for other reasons. Perhaps they are too exhausted with the demands of a marriage or family to put forth the effort.

They also may feel that their husband does not appreciate their efforts anymore. Whatever the case may be, reacting to marital neglect with passive aggression should not be the solution to the problem. Out of respect for the marriage covenant, wives ought to do whatever it takes to strengthen their relationship with their husband.

This is no less true for husbands. Next time you feel the temptation to place the blame and responsibility for your own sinful actions on your wife’s failure to conform to your own (probably worldly) standards of beauty, ask yourself what you are doing wrong in the marriage that makes them not care about taking care of their looks for you anymore.

2. I feel better than I have in years.

There is a reason why many think this way. The passion and romance that you first experienced at the beginning of your relationship were never meant to last, though you ought to still feel a sense of attraction and feel affectionate toward your spouse even after many years of marriage. Even so, this feeling may not be as intense as it was in the beginning.

You may get a thrill from watching this new person walk into the room, as opposed to your spouse. Basic biology can be to blame for this. Researchers have amply demonstrated that the exhilaration of infatuation lasts less than two years. Those same exciting sensations that you may have with this interloper will eventually die down in the same way that they did in your marriage. The cycle repeats itself.

Even though you get the ego boost of falling in love with someone new, this feeling is nothing in comparison with the deep satisfaction of knowing and being known by your spouse for who you truly are and unconditionally loved.

A marriage can reveal a person’s true colors when they are at their worst. Each may know their spouse’s strengths and weaknesses and yet still commit to each other entirely.

This type of love will not be entirely without passion, but the passion won’t rank as high on the scale as it once did in the beginning. The early fiery romantic love cannot be compared to the love that is strengthened through struggle and everything that you have been through together.

3. I don’t love them anymore

It should be noted at the outset that love is only about 5% feeling and 95% commitment. Though it may be shocking to think about, some spouses remain in their marriage because they made a covenant with their spouse before God and firmly intend to hold true to their promise.

Emotions will wax and wane over the course of your marriage and some days you may not like your spouse as much as you do on other days.

Situations change, and the stresses of life can be overwhelming in a marriage that cannot seem to navigate through what this life throws at them. However, that doesn’t mean you stop loving each other.

What if the feeling has faded?

Keep covenant and love them! Continue with the same loving acts that you did at the beginning of your marriage, in spite of any whatever feelings you be lacking. You may not feel like being as loving, tender, ready to please, or sympathetic as you once where, however, your actions should reflect these feelings, even when you do not have them.

Showing that you understand and are forgiving and helpful will get you through the flat times in your marriage and will render these times infrequent and less intense. Correspondingly, your feelings will become more consistent. All of this will be a result of deciding to love through it all.

It doesn’t require a lot of faith to serve someone that you love. Christ served others on this earth, despite ridicule, persecution, and death. His love for us was still strong throughout it all, and most importantly, forgiving.

“You see, at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Matt. 5:6-8 NIV)

Christian Counseling for Adultery

It is no accident that the Bible ties adultery very closely to idolatry. Adultery is essentially the worship of a false god. The passion that God intended for marriage and commitment is shared with one without bowing the knee to the one whom we were called to love. It is also covenant-breaking of the first order. It is intimacy without commitment and a soul-damning alternative to the work implicit in the marriage relationship.

Let a professional Christian counselor help you and your spouse restore intimacy, trust, and healing to your marriage.

Photos
“Girl with Copper Hair,” courtesy of tintenfieber, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Young Girl Crossing Hands,” courtesy of Splitshire.com, AMANDR 20160413 SplitShire-6661-2; “Thinking,” courtesy of Jaelynn Castillo, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “For Better or For Worse,” courtesy of Thomas Curryer, unsplash.com, Public Domain License

Why Do Some Women Have a Low Sex Drive?

References Dr. Ruth Morehouse in “Why You Don’t Want To Have Sex” from Oprah Magazine July-August 2010 and “Passionate Marriage” by Dr. David Schnarch

Women often bear the brunt of the details of managing the household and daily family life. When they feel like they can’t catch up, they often become stressed and overwhelmed, leading to a sense of depletion and exhaustion that can carry over into their sex lives and lead to a low sex drive.

Sex can start to seem like one more chore to add to the to-do list. How could her husband possibly expect more out of her than she’s already doing?

The lack of sexual desire sometimes leads to a feeling of guilt or shame. Why wouldn’t you want to have sex? You must be dysfunctional in some way, right? That’s probably not the case at all.

If there’s no underlying physical problem, take time to explore the reasons for your low sex drive, and realize that they are legitimate issues that deserve to be addressed, not glossed over.

In fact, sex therapist Dr. David Schnarch says that being honest about your lack of desire shows good judgment: “Healthy people don’t want sex when it’s not worth wanting.” (127)

Reasons for a Low Sex Drive in Women

Clinical psychologist Ruth Morehouse has identified several reasons why women often experience a decline in sexual desire as they get older. Her husband’s book Passionate Marriage builds upon this information with suggestions for how to address these issues.

1. The Effect of Stress on Sexual Desire

The process of pregnancy, childbirth, infant care, and possibly breastfeeding can make a woman feel that her body doesn’t belong to her anymore. Sex can start to seem like one more physical demand placed on an already depleted body. Saying no to sex can be one of the only ways a woman regains a sense of physical autonomy in the midst of the demands of motherhood.

This perspective unfortunately assumes that sex is something the wife does for the husband, instead of being a time of mutual enjoyment. This mindset often develops due to one partner having a higher sex drive than the other; in this case, the husband has a higher drive than the wife, although the reverse is frequently true as well.

When the higher drive partner initiates frequently, the lower drive spouse may begin to feel pressured. Consider how you can take some of the pressure off and rekindle a feeling of romance and mutual desire.

Here are some ideas:

  • Request that your spouse take a break from initiating for a brief period of time to give you some space.
  • Schedule some time away for just the two of you to spend alone together.
  • Put sex on the calendar. This doesn’t have to be unromantic; it can give the higher drive spouse reassurance, while removing the pressure on the lower drive spouse. This also has the benefit of giving a wife time to prepare mentally and emotionally. Taking time to de-stress and invest in self-care beforehand can increase a wife’s sexual desire when sex is on the agenda.

2. Marriage as a Low Priority

It’s one thing to say your marriage is a priority, but it’s important to take practical steps to keep it that way. This involves altering your view of sex, trying to see it not as an act of service or a task on the checklist, but as a way to connect and build intimacy in your marriage.

Take time to actually think about sex during the day, and consider the physical benefits—a release of tension being one of them. Sex can de-stress you once you get over the initial mental barrier.

Acute stressors in life can result in marriage being deprioritized, but this will only result in more problems. It’s important to work on marriage problems as they arise in order to reduce their negative impact on the relationship, including the sexual relationship.

“Clearly, emotional issues have a direct physiological impact on sexual functioning. Generally, the more unresolved issues that intrude during sex, the further away you are from your sexual potential, because these issues limit your sexual preferences and pleasure: you can relax, focus, and enhance the physical stimulation you’re receiving only when it fits your dynamics.” (86)

3. Dissatisfaction in the Sexual Relationship

If sex has become monotonous and routine, this may impact your level of desire. Over the years, it’s easy to slip into a familiar pattern, but this can start to seem rote and impersonal.

A wife may feel taken for granted instead of cherished. She might want to ask for a different approach, but doesn’t know how to without making it sound like her husband is inadequate.

The early stages of a relationship are usually full of intense connection and physical attraction, and when this naturally fades, sex can start to seem like a letdown.

It’s important to stoke the fires of intimacy and passion once the honeymoon phase has passed. The sexual relationship within marriage needs a solid foundation built on a holistic relational approach.

Physical attraction can’t be the basis for everything; the emotional connection needs to be cultivated and maintained as an integral aspect of sex.

“As you age, feelings and thoughts must replace biological drive and sensory awareness as the major determinants of your sexuality. Exploring your sexual potential isn’t just easier to do; it’s a necessity if you want to keep sex a vital part of your life as you get older.” (89)

Years into a marriage, many couples have figured out what works for them in order for each partner to feel satisfied, but it’s important not to allow the relationship to settle into a rut. You can’t expect to have an intimate bond if you treat your spouse like a checklist.

Schnarch emphasizes the need to seek beauty not in the act of sex itself, but in the person that you’re with. “There’s no beauty in sex–the beauty is in people. You can’t save the beauty in sex, you have to put it in.” (75)

The book of Song of Solomon illustrates this excellently. Sex isn’t the point; the lover and beloved are the focus. Physical satisfaction isn’t an end in itself, but the result of pursuing and enjoying the other person.

4. Insecurities and Stagnancy in the Sexual Relationship

Perhaps you haven’t considered the role insecurity might play even in a seasoned relationship. You can take responsibility for your own satisfaction by realizing it’s up to you to improve your sex life. Simply going through the motions prevents you from being fully present. This contributes to ongoing stagnancy.

Morehouse describes women who have dissatisfying sexual relationships due to feelings of insecurity in their overall relationship. They’re uncomfortable with disturbing the status quo. The sex is fine, it’s acceptable, so why rock the boat?

What if this makes things worse instead of better? What if you feel embarrassed by asking your spouse to change the familiar routine?

But if you’re so worried about creating problems that you never speak up, this actually leads to other issues. Sex may feel boring and unsatisfying, leading to a lack of desire, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Even though you’re not doing anything to improve your sex life, you might begin to resent your spouse for not making it better.

It’s important to own the fact that if you want your sex life to be more satisfying, you have to be willing to acknowledge your lack of desire and initiate change.

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul describes the battle between his indwelling sin and his desire to live in obedience to God’s commands. He knew God’s will, but he still sinned.

In the same way, knowledge and action can remain polarized in marriage as a spouse knows they’re struggling with the current state of things, but doesn’t move forward to change them.

Begin a conversation with your spouse about trying something new in your sexual relationship. Think of it as exploring a new facet of your favorite hobby. Any favorite activity needs a change in routine once in awhile for it to remain enjoyable. Doing the same exact thing every time is more like an assembly line than a gratifying sexual experience.

When to Seek Counseling

Genesis 2:24 emphasizes the high value of the marriage covenant, which creates a new union that supersedes one’s family of origin. If your marriage is last on the list of priorities in a busy life, becoming “one flesh” in all areas will be very difficult.

Christian counseling San Diego can provide a safe, mature environment for you and your spouse to work on your intimate difficulties and develop a deeper understanding and bond.

Photos

“I’m with you,” courtesy of Brooke Cagle, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Beach Day,” courtesy of Carly Rae Hobbins, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Thinking,” courtesy of Jaelynn Castillo, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bedtime,” courtesy of Annie Spratt, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home

If a single person’s life is considered dynamic, it is all the more so for a married couple as two very different people establish a new life together under the same roof. Counseling is an important way to ensure that both positive personal and relational growth occurs as the challenges in a married couple’s life increase.

Couples undergoing counseling receive deeper insight into one another’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Practices and techniques are taught to allow the spouses to develop a stronger connection in order to overcome obstacles in their lives.

And most importantly, as the couple prayerfully seeks improvement together, God’s power and love may be experienced which will inspire, encourage, and heal.

However, counseling alone is not enough to sustain this positive growth. At home, the couple needs to implement what was learned. This is why counselors give assignments to help establish better habits and practices for a stronger and more fruitful married life.

Couples Counseling Practices to Take Home with You

Here are three exercises which are useful in reinforcing gains made in couples counseling:

1) Checking in Emotionally

Focused attention is something that most individuals appreciate and even crave, especially in today’s world where people are experiencing less face-to-face time compared to the past. When someone attentively listens to us, we feel that we are special to him or her.

This practice – which is known to others as an “emotional check-in”, a “connection time”, or a “heart check in” – is vital for spouses to know one another’s inner world. When their inner being is expressed and understood, the couple grows closer emotionally.

To achieve this, the couple is asked to commit to a specific time to share and listen to one another’s heart. A specific day, time, and place are set for them to share regularly. A time limit (20-30 minutes is an okay start) is decided upon for sharing their feelings and any resulting needs.

As one spouse shares, the other listens attentively, interrupting only to clarify things or to summarize what was understood at that time. When the first person is done sharing everything, the spouse who was listening reflects back the sentiments and emotions heard, and then asks, “Is there anything you need from me regarding those feelings?” This is then the time for the sharing spouse to express what should be addressed in the relationship.

After that, the first sharer becomes the listener and the process is repeated. Through this, not only is empathy for one’s spouse strengthened, each spouse also develops more awareness of their own emotions and needs. It really is a beneficial way for each spouse to feel loved and understood. 

2) Using the Time-out Method

An additional important tool needed by couples is the “time-out.” It is natural that conflict may arise as burdens and frustrations are shared. Although a natural occurrence, couples need to ensure that it does not escalate to the point of causing a further rift in the relationship.

In the time-out, physical distance is asked for and granted so that emotions may cool down, thoughts may be gathered, and a fruitful conversation may be returned to. Without it, things may boil over into something very hurtful indeed – emotionally and possibly even physically.

Aside from allowing the heated discussion to simmer down, the time-out is also a trust-building practice. This is accomplished as the spouse acknowledges the anger and then takes a non-destructive step (the time-out) to de-escalate the situation. Trust is further built up as the conversation is resumed once things settle down. It means that both seek a resolution rather than an escape from the discussion.

3) Taking Time to Pray Together

Praying together for the marriage is another powerful practice. While it is always important to pray individually, when it is done together, each partner is given reassurance about just how important their relationship is to one another, helping to deepen the shared spiritual connection.

Prayer is an act of humility as we acknowledge our finiteness, seeking God’s wisdom and assistance. But though it is something we must do, it can be difficult at times because of our pride, our past experiences of unanswered prayers, or even spiritual opposition.

So as the couple takes time to fervently pray together for God’s help, it means that they have realized they cannot do things on their own and that they are truly seeking for the means to keep their bond strong.

It is why it has been generally observed that couples who pray together tend to stay together.

The above-mentioned are just some of the practices that may be assigned during counseling sessions. If you believe that this article pertains to you or to a couple that you know, it is recommended that you contact a professional Christian counselor to help you build a strong and prayerful marriage.

 

Photos


“To the ends of the earth,” courtesy of Brian Holland, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Stand by Me,” courtesy of Alex Iby, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Relax,” courtesy of Maxime Lelievre, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple reading the Bible,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License