Saving a Marriage from a Counselor's Point of View
From my handle most can assume that I am a Pastor. I am also certified as a counselor through AACC. In my many years of pastoring I have counselled many having problems with their marriage.
Not only that, I have been married since 1985 and it has not always been smooth sailing, especially in the early days. Any time two people come together there will be bumps along the road. Sometimes those bumps can lead people to want to go separate directions.
Add to that the ease of divorce now. Over half of those entering marriage will be divorced. With this being so easy many don't want to take the time to work through the difficulties, but in reality it is working through difficulties that make us stronger as individuals.
If you think about the process of weight lifting, if you are going to build some big biceps you are going to have to hit some heavy resistance. The same is true in our personal development. It is through the hard times we become stronger, better, and more stable.
I have seen situations that were really bad such as adultery, abuse, drugs get turned around. As the Bible says, "All things are possible to those who believe." But there are some key things that people must realize if they are going to turn a bad situation around.
I am all for saving every marriage unless the spouse and/or children are in physical or emotional harm. I will not be covering those areas here and if you find yourself with someone who is literally capable of hurting you I would get our of Dodge as fast as I could.
Where Your Heart is There is Your Treasure
This is something that many don't realize when they are looking at their lives. You will eventually go where your heart is. In our ministry we also run a drug and alcohol home where men live as they work to break the addictions of their life.
I was talking to an individual who was wanting to come into our home some time back. I have interviewed many men wanting to come into our program and there is one skill that most have developed very well --- manipulation.
There are many that just want to sleep, get some food, and a shower and in a week they will resume their lifestyle. Some are facing prison and want to satisfy a court mandate while others truly want to change their lives.
I was talking to a young man and he was trying to convince me that he wanted to change his life, but having been in this exact same conversation many times over I knew it was more of a con job then sincerity. This particular person was facing a court sentence if they didn't get into a program.
I told him the following. I said, "I don't believe a word you are saying. I do believe you want to come into our home, but your desire is to not be sent to prison. What I see in you is that mentally you know that you need to stop what you are doing, but in reality you like your lifestyle. If I let you into our home, once the court is off your back you will be back into drugs because you want it."
He starred at me and said, "I do like it, but I know I need to change" confirming my interpretation. So how does this apply to marriage counseling. Many times people are looking for a way out of the marriage for whatever reason. There heart is now on something else whether it be another person, change of location, what they call freedom, or whatever it really doesn't matter.
The words they use in this scenario is, "I am not longer in love." This is actually a lie they are in love, but their love is for themselves. They want what they want and they are following the treasure in their heart.
This is one of the first things that I typically deal with because if a person doesn't want to be married eventually they won't! We may get through this event, but a new event will present itself six months or a year down the road.
If you really want to save your marriage then you will do anything to resolve the issues that's creating the division between you and your spouse.
Deal with Your Own Splinter!
Here is a key to life that will help you in any situation that you are facing. I have counseled people who really want to save their marriage, they have read many books on marriage, they are willing to go to counseling, but it seems nothing works. Why is that?
It's the splinter issue. You see, you cannot change anyone but you! As much as you might think that it is your spouse that is making life misearable you cannot change them. You can only change you!
But the power is, if you change you then you can change them. I pastor a church and we have a sound board in our sanctuary. You've probably seen one of these either in a church or at a concert. The have "sliders" on them. You push the slider up and you get more volume and you pull the slider back and you get less volume.
In life we are all sliders. Based on how we perceive the world, interact with other humans, communicate, and so forth we either push people away or draw them closer to us. So Mr and Mrs and fighting all the time because Mrs says that Mr won't help out around the house and just wants to sit on the sofa and watch sports. Mr on the other hand says that all Mrs does is yack and complain and that he can't even relax a little after a hard days work.
So what is happening in the situation above is Mrs is trying to change Mr and Mr is trying to change Mrs which is a losing proposition because you can't change people you can only change you. How I approach the world around me determines how the world around me responds to me.
If I want someone close to me then I need to be what draws them near. Let's change the subject for a moment. If you own a business and you want to attract high quality people then you will have to put a package together that attracts high quality people. McDonalds is not trying to attract a high quality labor force. They know that their average worker will only be there a few months and that many are only working there while they look for something else. It's part of their business model. They provide cheap hamburgers and in order to provide cheap hamburgers they pay minimum wage and have to deal with high turnover. Contrast that with Morton's Steak House. I am sure the servers there make a nice income, but when you walk in they treat you like royalty. They are there to serve you and make your experience nicer, thus Morton's will have a much nicer package in order to attract the serious server.
What are they doing, they are creating an atmosphere to attract the workers they want. As a person in a marriage you want to attract your spouse to you. You want to become so beneficial to them that they want to please you. By turning your focus from what you want to the type of person your spouse is you will change how they will respond to you.
Will it happen overnight? Absolutely not, but you will very quickly start seeing a change in them because "they" like what "they" are receiving from you and now they want to be closer to you. This is all biblically based because the Bible tells us to esteem others higher then ourselves. I know this doesn't fly in the modern politically correct world that we live in, but do you want to argue points or have a happy marriage?
Unfortunately most of us enter marriages incorrectly. I remember once at a banquet my wife and I along with two other couples were invited to be a panel for a game that was being played. It was like the Newlywed Game that used to be on TV. We were asked a series of questions while our spouses were out of the room then we had to see how well we knew each other.
I remember one of the questions being asked was, "What first attracted your husband to you." It was easy for me and my wife got it right. It was her eyes. One of the other couples answer was the woman's buttocks and the other was the woman's breast. Everyone got a good laugh and I was the only one that didn't look like a slavering male.
Anyway, my point here is that many enter the marriage for the wrong reason. They are looking for a spouse that fulfills them. In the real world no one can complete you except the Lord. When you are incomplete you are coming into the marriage damaged and the person that you are expecting to complete you is a person who is probably looking for you to complete them.
It is not until you are complete within yourself that you can enter a marriage whole. If you are enter whole then your focus is not what the spouse can do for you, but what can you do to make the spouse happy. When two individuals are complete you have a marriage that is a giving marriage instead of a taking marriage.
But, most of us didn't come into marriage this way. So what do we do now? We have to change the dynamics. As the Bible says, "It is better to give then to receive" and "give and it shall be given to you." Instead of trying to fix your spouse so they become what you want start giving into their life and help them become complete. You will be amazed how quickly you can turn an emotionally heated home into a peaceful sanctuary if you do this. This also sets you up biblically to receive what it is that you need.