Marriage Counselling

When I give Marriage Counselling advice to couples or Marriage Counsellors there are a few basics which I always cover. Let me share them with you.

Marriage brings two different people together to establish a working relationship. When the marriage relationship breaks down, people feel hurt, betrayed, unloved, insecure, fearful, angry, bitter, or a range of other emotions. Those emotions not only challenge the marriage but they also tap issues from the background of the couple. Having a sense for this interplay empowers marriage counseling to be more effective.

The Individual

Marriage brings two individuals together for a mutually rewarding relationship. Who they each are, as individuals, affects what they can achieve as a couple. An unstable person will hardly be able to build a stable relationship. A fearful person will not be able to build a trusting relationship. An angry person will not be able to build a loving relationship.

So, before a marriage counselor becomes too distracted with the relationship issues they are wise to consider the individual qualities of the husband and wife. The weaknesses, attitudes, past experience and personal skills of each spouse will impede or assist the building of a strong relationship.

Individual Complexity

People are complex, so the range of personal issues they carry could be quite extensive. A wise counsellor seeks to uncover those things which are most relevant to the person’s ability to enter into and maintain a strong marriage relationship. Issues of trust, forgiveness, correct view of marriage and relationship, willingness to change, flexibility, selfishness and fear might be among the relevant matters to uncover.

People’s behaviour is often crafted by their reactions to past experience. For example, a person who has suffered injustice will tend to be very sensitive about justice issues. A person who has been denied loving acceptance may idolise the input of their spouse and feel let down when the spouse does not meet their idealised expectations. A person who has been spoiled may find it hard to give up their will to fit in with their spouse. I refer to this individual complexity as the “baggage” which the couple brings along on their honeymoon and into their marriage. Most often the person does not know their own baggage, since it seems normal to them. Their spouse is most likely completely oblivious to this baggage.

In time this baggage will trip up the marriage relationship. These hidden things will become obvious, over time, and they will prompt a new set of problems as each spouse reacts to the issues for better or for worse. The joke goes, “Love is blind, but Marriage is an Eye-Opener!” And that’s true. Relationship brings to light the hidden things. How skilled the couple are in dealing with those revelations will impact where their marriage goes.

Relationship Skills

Because marriage is a relationship it is vital that each person has good relationship skills. If one has good skills they can save the marriage from much trouble, but it is better if both work together than that one exploit the strengths of the other.

Relationship skills are not so much ‘skills’ as attitudes. Selfish attitudes are contrary to the spirit of relationship. Inflexibility makes demands on the other party in a relationship. Unforgiveness is a cruelty which violates relationship. Independence is contrary to relationship. Stubbornness is a road-block to relationship. Self assertiveness violates others. Pride is an offence to others. Self-determination is contrary to the spirit of cooperation.

People with the wrong attitudes have the wrong skills. Yet some people need to be trained in the practical expression of good relationship skills. Listening, caring, cooperating, sharing, committing time for each other, fitting in with the other’s plans, negotiating equitably, repenting, forgiving, adapting, standing firm on moral principles and being consistent are practices which may have to be learned and practiced by today’s dysfunctional society.

Proper Modelling

When a couple does not know what they are trying to build they will have less success than they could otherwise have. A clear understanding of the godly model for marriage, as I present in my books, Marriage Horizons and Mending Marriages, empowers a couple to build the most stable and effective kind of relationship. A good counsellor is attentive to the concept of marriage the couple are working with. If it is flawed then the couple needs to be instructed and directed toward the model of marriage that actually works and works most effectively.

God’s Grace

Humans are limited creatures and they don’t have the ability to save themselves. Even the best possible help from the most skilled Marriage Counsellor is not enough. Each person and each couple needs to have the grace of God released into their lives and relationships.

Good Marriage Counseling releases God’s grace into each individual spouse. That’s why Christian Marriage Counselling is so very important in the lives of couples who need help. Secular assistance can give good advice and sound wisdom, but it cannot release God’s divine touch into the lives of the couple.

If a couple cannot access Christian Marriage Counselling then they should find a Bible-believing church where they can get prayer and ministry to release God’s grace into their personal lives and into their marriage relationship.

Marriage Basics

I recently enjoyed hearing Ron Strode in Melbourne. Ron is part of Worship Centre in Brisbane and he and his wife, Robyn, have a marriage counseling ministry. He gave his own assessment, gleaned from many years of helping marriages, as to why marriages fail. I’d like to share his insight with you.

You will recall that I have identified seven causes of marriage failure. If you missed that article do a quick search for that post. I point out that the principal destroyer of marriage is “Selfishness”. Let’s see how Ron’s insights mesh with mine.

Ron claims that the principal destroyer of marriages is that people focus on what they Don’t Have rather than what they Have!

An example Ron gave is that a man may wish his wife still had the same tricky figure she had when they married. The man may want his wife to still look as ‘hot’ as she did in her younger years. Here the man is focussed on what he Doesn’t Have, rather than what he has.

In that case, Ron points out, the wife may have given birth to six children and her body may struggle to maintain its youthful trim lines. The wife’s body has changed, but as a consequence of producing children. It is unreasonable for the man to demand that his wife maintain her figure, while also expecting her to give birth to a number of children over the years.

Similarly a wife may look at her husband and think he is not the same man she married. He is not romantic and affectionate like he used to be. She might then focus on what she Doesn’t Have, such as the on-going romantic relationship, rather than what she Does Have.

Ron pointed out that when his own marriage had become stale he was challenged to write a list of things about Robyn which were a delight to him. This is the list of benefits – the “Have” of their relationship. He came up with over 30 different things which were a blessing to him in his wife.

When he recognised his own heart becoming cold toward her, or taking her for granted, he would review that list of positives and be reminded of all the reasons he should be glad he married her.

Can you see a connection between Selfishness and what Ron has identified here? When a person thinks about what they don’t have, they are looking at the marriage selfishly. They are looking for what they want or lust after. They are making demands of the other person.

When a person is unselfish they are able to bless their spouse, not because the spouse gives them everything they want, or is the ideal spouse. They bless the spouse because that is their responsibility. They bless the spouse as an investment in their marriage and as an act of worship to God.

Selfish people can’t make that kind of investment. They may think they are SO special that others should invest in them, but not them in others. This is pride. It comes before destruction. It will destroy relationships.

Selfish people may be so addicted to lust, self-gratification or the like that they can only demand gratification, rather than being a blessing. Such enslaved people will destroy themselves and their relationships.

Try Ron’s suggestion. Make a list of the positives. Prayerfully ask God to open your heart and mind toward your spouse and to show you how to bless them. If your pride or lusts get in the way then realise you need deliverance, repentance and healing. Get spiritual help from a Bible believing, God-fearing pastor or ministry person who can bring you out of your own slavery.

If selfishness is your ultimate problem, then ask God to help you die to yourself. Learn to put yourself on the altar, take up your cross and live for God, not yourself.

The Lost Taste of Sex

I’ve talked a bit about how we lose the taste for things, so now I’ll turn your attention to sex. (I smile at this, since some people already have their mind turned too far in that direction.) I have pointed out how people end up unable to enjoy the natural flavours of life and of God’s glory, because they have become addicts to sensual stimulation.

One of our problems is that we adapt to the stimuli, so anything that is tantalising becomes normal as we continue to experience it. We can find ourselves adding more sugar, more salt or more spice, because we keep adapting to the flavour sensation we have created.

Another problem is that we must avoid crossing moral boundaries. We are moral beings and many of the things our body craves must be kept within moral bounds as well. If we indulge a human appetite we become a slave to their thing. Our body then makes demands of us and will not be satisfied unless we indulge it. We are in a moral bind. What was supposed to simply be a delightful additional experience becomes a slavery and an acid hole in our being.

In our sensualised western culture we are constantly prompted to indulge our appetites. In so doing we begin destroying our taste for those things and we come under the power of the sensuality. We find that we are spoiled for the ordinary, not because we have transcended the ordinary, but because we have damaged our taste buds and can no longer taste the flavours God created for us.

So, how does this apply to sex?

Most westerners do not know how to enjoy sex that is not sensualised. Sex has been so immersed in pop-culture sensuality that many people think their sexual experience is a failure if it just ordinary.

Sex is packaged for us in song, books, movies and TV programs as a highly sensualised experience. Pornographic or sensualised images, eroticised stories, voyeuristic entertainments and immoral lifestyles have so swamped our appreciation for sex that most westerners are permanently damaged goods.

In my Straight Talk on Sex seminars I point out that sex is often fused with adrenalin in the experienced of sensualised people. Those people don’t want sex without the accompanying adrenalin rush as well. The taste of sex has been lost to them.

I recall talking with a new Christian who had recently dealt with his pornography problem. He had begun to use pornography to give himself a sexual excitement. However, the consequence was that he found himself unable to enter into natural sexual relations with his wife. He finally resorted to keeping pornography beside his bed and using that to get himself worked up enough to be able to have intimacy with his wife.

The wife in that situation felt horrible demeaned. She felt that she was so deficient as a woman as to be incapable of attracting her husband’s sexual interest. The problem, however, was not with the woman but with the man. He was spoiled for the ordinary. He could no longer enjoy the natural and sweet intimacy God gave him in his marriage. What he had indulged in, in order to give himself an upgrade in his sexual excitement, actually did the very opposite. It ate holes in his sexuality.

Thankfully, through becoming a Christian, this man dealt with his sin and addiction.

The devil’s deal just never gets any better. He keeps promising the earth and delivering mud. He promises excitement while he is stealing your ability to taste anything at all.

If you have been damaged in the ways I describe in these posts, I encourage you to deal with the issue. You are welcome to use the Steps to Release which are my main ministry tool in helping people. I have already posted on the topic, giving a summary of those steps, so look for the post titled Steps to Release.

7 Things Destroying Relationships

I spoke recently on the topic “How To Stay In Love”. In researching for the message I checked out what people suggest are relationship breakers. There are a number of things people suggest are lacking in relationships that go sour. As I pondered the issue I came up with my own list of Seven Things Destroying Relationships. I thought I would share them with you.

My list is based on my own personal experience as a husband and the hundreds of hours of relationship counselling I have given to men and women, young and old, over several decades. So this list does not come from guesswork or shallow assumptions.

I point out that I have had people walk out on my sessions, weep, argue, kick the furniture, go silent, sulk and give other varied reactions to my input. I have done the hard yards in getting to the insights which I now share with you. Please don’t take this list lightly.

OK, are your ready to check yourself against Pastor Chris’s hot-list? Are you ready to allow our own heart to be convicted by these Seven Deadly Sins? Are you man or woman enough to face realities which you might not like?

You still have time to click off this page and save yourself the offence of what I am about to share. I will never know that you chickened out and ran back to your delusions.

………

Still with me??

OK ‘brave-heart’, here we go…….

The Seven Deadly Sins Destroying Relationships are…….

1. Selfishness

2. Being self-focused – Selfishness

3. self-Ishness

4. Caring for self first – ‘selfishness’

5. SELFishness

6. See item #1

7. More of the same…..

The reason I can be so confident in making up this list is that Love and Selfishness are mutually exclusive. That means they cannot exist in the same place at the same time. I know that to be a fact because of what the Bible teaches in the world’s most beautiful description of “love”, 1Corinthians chapter 13.

In 1Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives an extensive and awesome description of love. And in that description he says that “love does not seek its own”, 1Corinthians 13:5. That is the same as saying: “Love is not selfish”, “Love does not push its own will”, “Love does not demand its own way”, “Love has given up self-interest” and “Love is not demanding”.

When we find people who are selfish, demanding, argumentative, pouting, jealous, angry, resentful, hurt, pushy or self-indulgent, we know that they do not have love. Real Love does not display any of those things.

So, if you are facing challenges in your relationships take a moment to consider how you rate on any one of the Seven Deadly Sins Destroying Relationships which I have outlined above. As you call on God’s grace to transform you from being a selfish person, to being one who can love others unconditionally, you will find your relationships with others are transformed too.

Steps To Release

Nearly 40 years ago I journeyed through a process of being set free from a variety of personal problems. Insecurity, fear, pride, immorality, attitudes and other things were brought to my attention and graciously dealt with.

The eventual end result of that process is the Steps to Release which I formulated as my ministry tool for helping others and myself step into personal freedom. What I want to do is share those steps with you, as part of the Christian Counselling material that you can apply to yourself or in helping others.

The Steps to Release are taught in my first book, Family Horizons, available from http://familyhorizons.net/html/shop.html

Several things prompted me to define these steps into a workable process which I can apply widely and share with others. While at Bible College in 1978 I shared my testimony of release and inner restoration with some of the students. Two girls, Janet and Jean, asked me to explain how God had set me free. I was unable to do so. They taunted me with the challenge that I had no right to share about my freedom if I couldn’t also show others how to enter into freedom too.

When I reflected on their challenge I remembered a discussion I had with my older brother. We had both encountered the infilling of the Holy Spirit at about the same time. A year or so later I said to my brother, “You know how God gets inside your life and starts dealing with you once you’ve received the Holy Spirit?” He looked at me and told me he had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain myself but he could not relate to my descriptions of having God convict me and reveal things to me. Up to that point I had assumed that everyone who received the Holy Spirit had the identical resultant experience.

So, when those fellow students challenged me to define God’s dealings in my life I went to prayer. I asked God to remind me what it was that He had done in me and how He had done it. I had no clear idea at first. I just took it all for granted and expected that everyone else was on the same journey of transformation which I enjoyed. Now that I knew each of us were on uniquely personal journeys and that my journey had produced some fruit others wanted to sample, I looked to the Lord to remind me how He had done His work in my life. There had been about seven years of various impacts, so I had to revisit that journey.

Piece of piece God began to awaken my memory. I began to remember specific preachers and sermons which were part of God’s work. I recalled various Bible verses which touched me at a deep level. I also remembered my responses to what God seemed to be saying deep within me.

My journey had been a deeply personal one. It touched my fears, pride, selfishness, vulnerabilities, inner pains, insecurities, shame, hurts and more. But as I recalled God’s gracious dealings a clear pattern began to emerge. God had taken me on a journey. It was a profound and personal venture that led me through my own personal quagmires and ruins into the glorious light of a new day in His presence.

There are many anecdotes I could share about the various stages of that journey, and in time I may well use them as illustrations here and there. What I think I should do is give you a summary of the overall journey then take the time to give you a more detailed description of the various steps in future posts. So for now, here is a summary of the landmarks that have become my Steps to Release.

1. The first thing I had to do was admit my need. This did not come easy, but I now see it as an essential element of the journey.

2. The second thing I had to do was identify the real problem, not just the symptoms. In the process I found it extremely valuable to uncover the root cause of the problem, such as an initiating event, if at all possible.

3. Once the problem had been identified I was led to take three important steps to deal with it. So the third thing I had to do was to repent of any part I had in bringing the specific problem into my life.

4. The fourth thing I had to do, and so the fourth step in my Steps to Release, was to forgive all those who were part of the problem. This includes those who caused the problem and those who added to it after the fact.

5. Then the fifth thing I was led to do was to renounce the evil of the situation. This is effectively the legal process of breaking the connection between the problem and me.

6. Having attended to those three steps of responsibility, repentance, forgiveness and renouncing, I could then enter into the spiritual warfare process of resisting the evil. This is the sixth step. I would break the power of the evil associated with the problem.

7. The final, seventh step is to fall at the feet of God. Another way to describe it is to cast my cares on Him, because He cares for me. This is the process of giving to God the ruin of my life and all that remains as a consequence of the problem which existed in my life. God is invited to take charge and to heal, restore and re-invigorate my life for His purposes.

8. If, after going through those steps the issue was not completely resolved I would see two things to do. One is to repeat the process, looking for even greater insight into what the problem is and where it came from. I would also be more diligent in working through the related steps. The other thing to do is to join forces with another Christian of strong faith who would add their faith to mine in working through the issue.

Well, that’s an introduction. I’ll elaborate at some time in the future. Meanwhile there is enough in this summary to empower you to tackle some of your problems. So go to it.