Many people seek marriage counseling for a variety of different reasons, which usually can be recognized and acknowledged in time. One may desire counseling in order to get their partner to change, for example. That may be legitimate if the partner is doing something unlawful or truly damaging (such as, for instance, using pornography or taking illicit drugs or behaving in an abusive manner towards family members). On other occasions, the goal may be to get the other partner to change as an evasive act, a way of avoiding my own need to address my own hang ups and poor methods of coping in the world. In either case, however, the ultimate goal of Christian marriage counseling is not to get our partner to change, even if they desperately need to do so, but to challenge our own hearts to face those things that impede growth, both as individuals, as well as in the way we behave towards other people. This process will help us enter into new realms of growth and experience.
The goal of Christian marriage counseling is to impart new skills, wisdom and a foundation of understanding for continued growth beyond the counseling office. But there is so much more to it than that. If all we needed was a little knowledge, we could all be fixed by reading a book. You’ve probably read your share of books, but the change you desire still eludes you. Why? Change, in order to be real, true and lasting, must take place at the level of the heart. The heart needs to be pursued, it needs to be challenged and confronted. It needs love, time and patience to bear fruit. No amount of surface level knowledge or exercises alone can bring change. By pointing you and your spouse to Christ, and confronting your hearts on hard issues, a Christian marriage counselor not only teaches, but also sets into motion a rhythm of life that extends beyond the office walls.
That being said, much of the cleaning up to be done will involve practicing new skills and implementing the knowledge and wisdom set forth in the office. Developing effective and healthy habits and breaking the detrimental ones takes time and repetition. Practical knowledge and skills you may gain include:
- Reintroducing passion back into the marriage
- Developing a firm partnership in parenting or working together to achieve goals
- Gaining an appreciation of the biological and psychological differences between men and women when it comes to issues such as intimacy.
- Learning effective negotiation skills—how to navigate the others’ hot buttons and agree to disagree.
- Communicating honestly and openly in a way that makes a difference
- Experiencing the Word of God
- Learning how confessing to and praying for one another is a lifelong journey for which Christian counseling can begin to equip you.
Change is a hard process. There will be pain but it is productive and purposeful pain. It is not the pain of accepting life in a marriage that doesn’t work–this pain has no purpose, it just is. This is the way God is refining you, working you and molding you to be more like him. Through it, you can experience healing in your marriage. You can experience the true joy of marriage as God designed. This is what Christian marriage counseling is all about.
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