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.