Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Glass Half Full

In a recent blog by Mort Fertel (www.themarriagecounselingblog.com) commented on how couples who are struggling tend to focus on what is not working in their marriage.

Mort Fertel
He goes on to say:

Develop a written list about what you and your partner do well. Perhaps you agree on parenting issues most of the time. Or maybe you manage your finances together well. Or maybe you get along with each other’s friends and family. Think about what types of things you like about your partner and what you like about your marriage. Think about what sorts of things attracted you to your partner and what sorts of things you enjoy doing together.


Ask your partner what he/she likes about your marriage as well. Ask for input in creating the list. You may be surprised to hear your partner’s answers. Keep your list handy and read it regularly. Add to it and make sure to only add positive aspects about your marriage. Challenge yourself to tell someone else something positive about your marriage. Point out positive things to your partner regularly.


By focusing on what works well in your marriage, your feelings about your partner are likely to be positive. When you feel more positive, you are likely to behave differently, which can lead to more positive outcomes. Focusing on the positive doesn’t mean you ignore problems, but instead shows you want to put your energy into what is working well for you and not on what isn’t working.

Certainly there is merit in what Mort is saying. This technique can be helpful even for couples who have a strong marriage. Here is where I think this approach comes up a little short. It is suggesting that a behavioral change technique will change the way you feel about one another and hopefully change the way you interact. This can help some couples but it doesn’t address the underlying heart issues that brought on the struggles to begin with.

Accept as fact that God brought you together and answer the following questions:

1. What is there about my spouse that irritates, annoys and/or frustrates me and what is God trying to tell me?

2. Is ours a God glorifying marriage? If not, what would we need to do differently?

God is more concerned about your holiness than your happiness, to quote Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage). Those irritating mannerisms may be God’s chisel which will help to mold you.

The second question forces you to concentrate on treating one another in a way that would please God. It puts God at the center of your marriage. In the long run this will change your heart and produce more lasting results.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A False Premise Leads to a Faulty Solution

In a recent blog Dr. Dana Fillmore reported some widely held beliefs stating,
Dr. Dana Fillmore
(while) most couples report that the number one area they want to improve in their marriage is communication, statistics actually show that money and/or an unfair division of labor are at the root of 70% of all divorces.
She then went on to say,
I don't believe money is the root of all evil, but … constant fighting over money can taint even the strongest of marriages and can cause couples to lose sight of what is truly wonderful about their lives and wonderful about each other.”

I believe there are two false premises. The first is that the underlying problem in most marriages is due to poor communication, money and/or an unfair division of labor. Until recently I believed the real culprit was self-centeredness, which by the way I still believe is a major contributor to unhappiness in all marriages. But I think Paul Tripp nails it when he states,
Our love for our husband/wife is a very accurate barometer of our true love for God… 1John 4:20 calls us to fix our marriages vertically before we ever fix them horizontally. Because our core problem is not that we don’t’ love our husbands/wives enough, no our problem is that we don’t love God enough and that is why we don’t love our spouse enough."

I suggest that any issues we have with money, division of labor and/or communication boils down to our relationship with God, or lack thereof. If I, as a husband, am called to love my wife as Christ loves His bride then I will carry my load around the house and we will find much to talk about because I know that is important to her.

The second false premise is found in the misleading statement about “money being the root of all evil.” Scripture says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1Timothy 6:10). Thus it is the love of money or the things that it will buy that we put ahead of God that is at the root of the problem. And when we put our allegiance to anything or anyone ahead of God there will be negative consequences – a difficult marriage just being one.

Christian Speak

Not too long ago I was sitting with one of my clients when I used a phrase that I tend to use over and over again, i.e. “what I want for you is for your marriage to be God glorifying and Christ centered.” I could tell by the expression on the person’s face that I might just as well have quoted Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or better yet given them the recipe for Einstein’s Bagels.

I have been around church people so long I’m starting to sound like one – wait a minute I am one. Fortunately I haven’t found a way to work in the word “ontological” in my counseling but I can see it coming.

Being an astute observer of body language combined with the person saying, “What on earth does that mean?” I clarified my statement.

I said, “God invented marriage. His primary purpose in doing so was to bring glory to Himself. Man and woman were created in His image. Our marriage is to mirror the relationship of the Father and the Son. We are to become one as the Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) are one.”

So what would a God glorifying marriage look like? There are a number of things but to name a few:
• Other couples would point to those marriages that glorify God and say, “We want what they have.” It would be that obvious that a God glorifying marriage was different, in a good way.
• The partners would be as other-centered as possible given our sinful nature. They would strive every day to put their partner’s desires ahead of their own.
• They would look for ways to make love a verb.
• When the couple disagrees about an issue they would invite God to be part of the discussion. They would see their different perspectives as enriching rather than annoying.
• They would keep short accounts, not letting the sun go down on their anger.
• They would give each other the benefit of the doubt. Trust of each other’s motives would be a given.
• They would be extremely quick to ask for and grant forgiveness.
• The fruit of the Spirit, i.e. joy, kindness, patience, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, love, and self-control would be operational in their marriage and evident to all who knew them.
• There would be much laughter.
• There would be a great amount of affection.
• The couple would pray together and for each other every day and not just at the dinner table.
• Each partner would be growing spiritually, i.e. spending more time in the Word, in service, in prayer, in worship, in meditation, reading Christian books, etc.

About this time my client asked me if I actually lived on planet earth and that is when I knew that for once I had been perfectly clear.


Monday, 4 July 2011

Christian Speak


Not too long ago I was sitting with one of my clients when I used a phrase that I tend to use over and over again, i.e. “what I want for you is for your marriage to be God glorifying and Christ centered.” I could tell by the expression on the person’s face that I might just as well have quoted Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or better yet given them the recipe for Einstein’s Bagels.

I have been around church people so long I’m starting to sound like one – wait a minute I am one. Fortunately I haven’t found a way to work in the word “ontological” in my counseling but I can see it coming.

Being an astute observer of body language combined with the person saying, “What on earth does that mean?” I clarified my statement.

I said, “God invented marriage. His primary purpose in doing so was to bring glory to Himself. Man and woman were created in His image. Our marriage is to mirror the relationship of the Father and the Son. We are to become one as the Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) are one.”

So what would a God glorifying marriage look like? There are a number of things but to name a few:
• Other couples would point to those marriages that glorify God and say, “We want what they have.” It would be that obvious that a God glorifying marriage was different, in a good way.
• The partners would be as other-centered as possible given our sinful nature. They would strive every day to put their partner’s desires ahead of their own.
• They would look for ways to make love a verb.
• When the couple disagrees about an issue they would invite God to be part of the discussion. They would see their different perspectives as enriching rather than annoying.
• They would keep short accounts, not letting the sun go down on their anger.
• They would give each other the benefit of the doubt. Trust of each other’s motives would be a given.
• They would be extremely quick to ask for and grant forgiveness.
• The fruit of the Spirit, i.e. joy, kindness, patience, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, love, and self-control would be operational in their marriage and evident to all who knew them.
• There would be much laughter.
• There would be a great amount of affection.
• The couple would pray together and for each other every day and not just at the dinner table.
• Each partner would be growing spiritually, i.e. spending more time in the Word, in service, in prayer, in worship, in meditation, reading Christian books, etc.

About this time my client asked me if I actually lived on planet earth and that is when I knew that for once I had been perfectly clear.