Friday, 10 August 2012

Before Going to Counseling

I whole heartedly endorse going to marriage counseling with certain caveats.

·       As soon as you recognize you are having any problems that are creating friction in your marriage seek help.  It doesn’t mean that if you have been married for twenty years you shouldn’t seek help, just understand the baggage you are carrying with you can be very heavy and it may take an extraordinary effort on the part of you and your spouse due to years of neglect.

·       Call it a bias, (and it is) seek a Biblical marriage counselor.  Not just any counselor, and not just a Christian counselor but one who specializes in working with marriages and uses the Bible as the basis for counseling.

·       To maximize the results both parties have to be open to change.  Though one partner may be more culpable than the other for the current condition of the marriage, most often both parties have contributed to the disunity.

·       Accept that you can only change yourself, not your partner.

·       Be willing to be unashamedly honest with your counselor.  Holding back information will only make it more difficult for you as a couple to get the desired results.

·       Be honest about your childhood, i.e. bad memories, negative messages, abuse, etc.  Talk openly about your parent’s marriage, how they handled conflict, did they divorce, etc.

·       Mental health issues, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, can put a strain on a marriage.  Inform your counselor of any disorders and/or family history of any mental health issues.

·       Addictions can cause significant marital problems.  Pornography, the use of drugs and/or alcohol creates untold problems that require specific treatment.

·       Sexual problems are most often difficult to talk about even between husbands and wives let alone with a stranger.  Childhood issues, mental health issues and addictions can all play a role in sexual problems.  In addition there can be physiological problems that necessitate the care of a medical doctor.  Sometimes it is a lack of communication between partners.  While sex is not the glue that holds a marriage together it is usually one of the first places that problems begin to surface.

In addition, as a Christian couple it is essential that you are committed to a covenantal marriage, i.e. no divorce, no exit strategy.  If there is even a glimmer that there is a way out of your situation other than seeking God and making the changes necessary in the way you approach one another, you will not put your whole heart into glorifying God.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Dealing with Lying

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him… a lying tongue”

 Proverbs 6: 16-17

“Who has been eating out of the ice cream carton?”  This is what is known as a rhetorical question, i.e. the person who is asking the question isn’t really looking for an answer.  Such was the case when I was confronted by my mother.  It would do no good to lie.  Even better was the fact that I didn’t fear telling the truth. 

Often the propensity to lie in adulthood starts in childhood.  So as a parent it is important that your children know that truth telling has a very high value for you.  It is important for you to, as a parent, and possibly as a spouse, to determine the motivation behind the lie.  Does the child tell the lie in an effort to make himself or herself look better; is it to avoid getting into trouble; is it to avoid embarrassment or shame; or has this become a pattern.

Examine how you respond when your child or spouse does tell the truth.  This becomes a teachable moment.  When you inquire of your children how your favorite vase wound up on the floor in pieces your reaction may shape how your children will be willing to take responsibility for their behavior for years to come. It’s just a vase!  But it is a great opportunity to build character.

 I can encourage truth telling or encourage someone to lie.  If I explode when my wife tells me that she accidently dented the car, I run the risk of having her avoid telling me or lying about it.  It’s just a car!  If I feel the need to conceal the fact that I was not at the office but having a drink with the guys I am headed down a very dangerous path.

 Yelling, screaming, ranting and raving are rarely, if ever, effective ways of responding to a difficult situation.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be angry or hurt.  It is what you do with your emotions at the time you learn of the infraction that builds up or tears down a relationship.  Nor does it mean that there aren’t consequences for having done something wrong and/or lying about it.

How you choose to respond to bad news and/or catching someone in a lie may determine whether or not your daughter will come to you first when she discovers that she is pregnant out of wed lock; or whether your spouse will admit to viewing pornography.  Whether the situation is serious or as simple as your teenage son coming in after curfew, the individual must believe they are loved unconditionally. Even though there may be consequences to the choices they have made, you will be there to support them.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Trial Separations - Do They Work?

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1Corinthians 10:31 

Most of my posts attempt to focus on how to have a marriage that brings glory to God.  Occasionally I am asked about the wisdom of separating for a period of time with the inference being that there is an intention of reconciling.  A study done by Ohio State University reported that 79% of the time couples who separate eventually divorce.

Numerous reasons are given for separating.  Often those with children want to give their children time to adjust to the change.  Under certain circumstances there are financial benefits to separation over divorce.  The provision of healthcare can be a huge consideration.  Some are in hopes that separation will serve as a wakeup call for their partner.

The reality is that children will suffer. Period!  There may be some financial justifications but under those circumstances reconciliation is rarely the ultimate outcome.  And according to the research separation doesn’t provide a wakeup call.

However all that said, I believe there are times when a separation may be in order.  Absolutely separation is called for in the case of spousal abuse, specifically physical abuse.  In addition there are instances when it is the only way to stop enabling someone with an addictive behavior.  Having tried numerous approaches to helping the addict gain victory over their addiction, separation may get the addicts attention.

In the case of abuse and/or addiction it is essential that the abuser or addict seek professional help which may include rehab, counseling and/or group therapy.

Separating is not an effective way of dealing with communication issues, or helping to learn a process for resolving conflict in a healthy manner.  Separating is not the solution to feelings of loneliness or feeling unloved.  Separating will not bring happiness to a spouse who is feeling less than fulfilled.  The bottom line is that most all of these issues are heart issues.  Something or someone has become more important than God.  James 4:1-2 says we quarrel because our desires are not met.  In which case, we should be taking our desires to God to see if they are desires that bring honor to Him.  If one is feeling unfulfilled it may  be God asking that person what gifts, talents and abilities they could be using for the Kingdom, etc.