What to Expect from Christian Based Marriage Counseling
You are researching marriage counseling. You have concluded, “We are open and desire help from a Christian professional.” You’re asking, “What should we expect as we approach the setting of Christian based marriage counseling?”
Expectations for Christian Based Marriage Counseling
Here are some realistic expectations for Christian Based Marriage Counseling:
1. Expect Support for Biblical Values and Faith
Values and worldview are central to one’s identity, relationship to self, others, the world, and to God. Christian based marriage counseling reflects a therapeutic orientation toward the world that is rooted in the Bible. Christian-based marriage counseling affirms Christ Jesus as the Savior of the world and the Lord of all Creation (Colossians 1:16).God is the author of marriage and the architect of its purposes. He is the Counselor and Healer of human hearts and relationships.
Marriage is the first human relationship described in the Bible and Jesus and the apostles upheld the primacy of marriage in the family. A healthy marriage blesses children (Proverbs 17:6b). Research upholds the importance of a strong and secure marriage as crucial for children’s emotional health.
Robert Epstein and Shannon Fox presented a study at the last annual meeting of the American Psychological Association entitled, What Makes A Good Parent? comparing the effectiveness of 10 important parenting practices and skills.
The top three most important “parenting competencies” in terms of their influence on kids’ health, happiness, and school success are love and affection for their child, stress management for self and child, and relationship skills: You maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse, significant other and/or co-parent and model effective relationship skills with other people. (See: http://drrobertepstein.com/index.php/parenting)
Expecting support for biblical values can create the intellectual and emotional space for a couple to explore their struggles and facilitate solutions which best fit them.
2. Expect to be Challenged to Be Honest
God is true and truth is the basis for growth, change, healing, trust, intimacy and character transformation. Without truth, there is no freedom to be who we were created to be (John 8:31-32 “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free).The apostle Paul said, “Speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) David discovered this about God: “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.” (Psalm 51:7a)
Christian based marriage counseling will challenge each spouse to be honest about their own behavior, perceptions, motivations, and choices and their impact on the relationship, as the foundation for change.
Expecting the challenge to be honest sets the stage for taking responsibility for oneself and facilitates collaboration in a marriage.
3. Expect the Opportunity to Know Yourself Better
Self-awareness paired with clear expression and an openness to learning more about one’s spouse often results in greater emotional connection in marriage. Self-awareness and curiosity about one’s spouse are experiences and choices which Christian-based marriage counseling engenders.Scripture enjoins spouses to be intrigued by and delighted by their spouse. And Jesus warns his followers not to focus on other’s shortcomings, the speck in their eye, but be willing to remove the log in their own eye first (Matthew 7:3-5).
Effective love flows from a heightened awareness of one’s own inner world, emotions, and relational needs, and from the respectful invitation to one’s spouse to address those needs. Christian-based marriage counseling presents the opportunity to know oneself and share oneself as the foundation of intimacy.
4. Expect the Invitation to Confront Yourself
A couple’s knowledge of how they struggle to connect emotionally and how to connect emotionally is important and crucial, but no less crucial is the desire of each partner to enact necessary changes to their own behavior and perceptions and to make effective choices to connect with their spouse.
Christian-based marriage counseling affirms the free will, responsibility, and agency of each individual because love can’t be forced, it is always a choice.The outcome of counseling is dependent on each partner’s willingness to own his/her choices, impact on the other, sin, wounds, and reactions without blaming the other. Sometimes unilateral change is needed to catalyze bi-lateral change. Sometimes, the most important question to ask and answer is: “How do I want to live at this moment?” “How do I want to show up?”
The expectation to be invited to confront oneself puts the onus for change right where it belongs, on each individual in a marriage. One’s choice is the only thing one can control. Self-responsibility and agency are characteristic of healthy relationships and a healthy marriage, which is the joining of two people who retain their individuality yet are bound together in many ways and in partnership for life.
Hard work of both partners and the power of God can result in the restoration of a beautiful, mysterious and powerful union. If you are interested in Christian based marriage counseling, please contact me or one of my colleagues.
“Sunset couple,” courtesy of reggie35, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Sitting by the Water,” courtesy of Nicu Buculei, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Planning,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Conversation,” courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License