Rediscovering God’s View of Marriage

In society today, we’re bombarded by various opinions, agendas, and worldviews. We’re constantly fed messages by social media, politics, the news, and the neighbors next door. Sometimes in the midst of the many voices, we lose sight of truth. Let’s take a few moments to get back to the basics, particularly pertaining to God’s view of marriage.

What Does the Bible Say About God’s View of Marriage?

In Mark 10:8, we read that a marriage means that two people have become united as one flesh. So in a Christian marriage, does this mean the spouses do not retain individual identities? Does the Creator of the universe ask us to sacrifice our individuality when we take our marriage vows?

The short answer is “no.” Marriages do not flourish when spouses become so enmeshed that their individual personalities are lost. Each one of us is a unique person with our own goals and desires and that doesn’t change we get married.

A healthy marriage requires two partners who experience personal growth along their growth as a couple in intimacy and love. This is a difficult task and requires a careful balance. There has to be individual development along with an increasing bond with one’s spouse.

Do we see this tension in Scripture? Let’s look at Paul’s metaphor of the body and apply it to the unity of a Christian marriage. In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the fellowship of believers functioning together as one body made up of many individuals. A body made up of only one member, like a foot, wouldn’t function effectively.

Rather, the entire body must work in sync and each part has to have its own purpose and identity (1 Cor. 12:12-31). The body of Christ is made up of all of these different parts working together towards the same goal.

Differentiation and Christian Marriage

We can apply this principle not only to a church community but also to a married couple. This will help us understand Jesus’ teaching that “two become one” in the covenant of marriage. I believe this means that by cultivating intimacy with our spouse, we became more fully united to them, as opposed to being “blended” with them. The most fruitful, godly marriages are made up of two people who are committed to personal growth and growth as a couple.

In his marital help book Passionate Marriage, Dr. David Schnarch describes this process as differentiation. Differentiation is the process of becoming yourself more fully as you engage in relationships with others, and particularly with your spouse.

Differentiation is the balance between the drive for personal growth and the desire to fellowship with others (55). This process should not make anyone into a loner. Instead, it makes our emotional bonds deeper and helps us develop holistically and healthily as individuals. It gives us an integrated “self-in-relation” that is unaffected by our circumstances.

Ultimately, differentiation allows us to grind off our “rough edges” and be ourselves more fully while we learn to love our spouse more (51).

Schnarch also describes the background of the word differentiation. It’s rooted in biology and refers to the process by which cells develop. All living cells originate from the same matter. As time passes, the cells differentiate—meaning, they take on their own individual properties. At this point, each cell “performs separate but related functions.”

Does this remind you of how Paul describes the body in 1 Corinthians? Schnarch adds: “The greater the differentiation, the more sophisticated and adaptive the life form” (62)—in other words, the more well-differentiated a life form is, the more it can adjust to challenging circumstances.

In the same way, people who are well-differentiated are secure in their personal identity, instead of relying on others to define them. When they are in a relationship, well-differentiated people can navigate conflict effectively because they have a grounded sense of self (55).

On the other hand, people who lack differentiation draw their sense of identity from those around them. They require validation from others in order to feel at peace with themselves. This is called developing a “contingent identity” (59).

People who have formed a contingent attachment lose their sense of self apart from their relationships. This causes them to have a great fear of changes in their relationship or in their partner’s emotions or moods.

How Christian Marriage Counseling Can Help You Differentiate

Differentiation is not a destination that can be reached overnight. Instead, it’s a journey toward a healthy sense of self, both individually and in relation to others. It’s a difficult process that requires a lot of work, including some decisions that may be uncomfortable.

This isn’t the easiest way to work on your marriage, but it is incredibly fruitful and will enable you to enjoy a much more fulfilling relationship with your spouse.

Becoming well-differentiated is a nuanced process, which means that it involves subtle complexities that can be confusing. How can you grow as a person and bond with your spouse at the same time? How can you develop a more grounded sense of self while still being “one flesh” in your marriage?

These questions are complicated, and there are no one-size-fits-all answers. If you think you need to work on this process in your marriage, a Christian counselor Newport Beach can help you wade through some of the complexities.

Whether you are just starting out or have been married for years, a qualified Christian counselor can provide you with the guidance and support you are seeking. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information about setting up an appointment with one of our marriage specialists.

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What are the Symptoms of Depression? Find Out Here

“Am I depressed?”

This question comes up a lot in conversation nowadays, even when speaking casually. It’s part of our cultural language.

“That’s really depressing!” “Wow, I’m so depressed about this.” Being in a state of depression seems almost normal. The word is used in everyday conversations and is in some ways an expected part of life. On television, depression is shown as an expected occurrence after a breakup, trauma, or even as a joke or on cartoons.

As an example, consider one of your favorite TV show characters who you think of as being depressed. What about their behavior points to depression? Are they truly experiencing depression, or is it just sadness inherent to being human? Is their emotional state caused by circumstances or who they are on the inside?

The answer completely depends on the individual. Some people suffer from depression that was passed down genetically with a strong biological component, while for other people a specific situation or a crisis experience in their lives can suddenly bring on depressive symptoms.

The common experience of sadness may resemble depression without meeting clinical criteria for the mental illness. Sadness can also stem from other kinds of disorders. For this reason, it’s best not to jump to the conclusion that your condition is depression; it could have any number of causes.

Even though the word depression is often thrown around, many are still wondering, “What are the symptoms of depression?” Sometimes the condition is obvious, and other times it’s not. True depression is an overwhelming sense of sadness, but not every depressed person will manifest identical symptoms.

It has been estimated 6.7% of adults suffer from depression (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2015). The most common groups affected are women and young adults between 18 and 25 years old (NIMH, 2015). Although depression is found in all ethnicities, its prevalence varies by race. Onset is typically found in the early thirties (Anxiety and Depression Association of America [ADAA], 2016).

Again, depression will manifest differently based on the individual, and its presentation can be very nuanced. It does not discriminate based on age, socioeconomic status, or level of education, and it can even change based on what season of the year it is.

Demographics don’t limit the prevalence of depression.  It is a widespread issue that affects the mental health of millions of people; and at the same time, it can be hard to diagnose properly. If you believe you might have depression, you should seek the advice of a doctor to rule out any physical causes that may need medical care. Once other causes have been ruled out, many physicians will give you a referral to a mental health professional so you can seek a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Getting a specific diagnosis requires that you be assessed by a professional. But here are some of the most common indicators of depression; these can help you assess your current state.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

Emotional Changes

Emotions are one of the first factors to be affected by depression. You may experience sudden and unexpected mood swings, or your typical emotional fluctuations may become more intense and frequent. These can include feelings of irritability, anger, restlessness, or tension.

Guilt is another common emotion connected to depression; you may think about past events or current issues and feel overcome with shame. You may feel suddenly consumed by thoughts about death, and you might feel overwhelmed by hopelessness or a sense of personal worthlessness.

Crying more than usual is another symptom, even when things appear outwardly fine. Taken together, symptoms like these can be very alarming and upsetting, and you might feel out of control and overwhelmed. Anxiety is often closely connected to depression.

These are common thoughts you might have:

“My family would be better off without me.”

“Things will never improve.”

“It’s all my fault.”


People suffering from depression often experience a lack of interest in things they usually enjoy. This can show itself either through lessened enthusiasm or a complete absence of motivation to engage in things that typically interest you. A project you’ve wanted to start for months suddenly feels like it takes too much energy. The Friday night plans you looked forward to all week just don’t sound very enticing. You know there are changes you need to make in your life, but the motivation just isn’t there.

As for setting goals and reaching new milestones, it’s not even on your radar right now. Everyday life itself seems like too much work. It’s hard to concentrate on getting the necessities accomplished, much less on enjoying exciting activities. You might end up staying home a lot, lacking the desire or capacity to even go grocery shopping.

You might feel stressed by the thought of new experiences you would usually enjoy. Many people lose interest in their romantic relationships and experience a loss of libido. Guilt can wrap itself around your thoughts until you feel like a waste of time for your partner, or perhaps you just feel too exhausted and despondent to make an effort in your relationship. Everyday life seems excruciatingly difficult, and you just don’t want to try anymore.

Things you might notice yourself saying:

“I realize that Thursday night is basketball night, but I just can’t manage it this week.”

“Can we go out to dinner another night? I’m just not in the mood right now.”

“I’m usually so good at keeping up with my work, but right now I just can’t and what’s worse, I don’t even think I care.”

Weight Changes

Sudden changes in weight are another red flag for depression. Stress often causes a change in appetite, whether that means eating more or less. Some people feel like they have to force themselves to eat. Depression causes a similar physical response in that it may either dramatically increase or decrease your appetite, ultimately leading to changes in your weight. Ongoing depression often makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

Things you might notice yourself saying:

“I just haven’t been hungry this week.”

“Crying makes me hungry and when I eat I feel better.”

“My weight is sitting next to my emotions on a rollercoaster.”

Sleep Changes

Sleep is integrally connected to our wellbeing and is usually affected in some way by depression. Insomnia can haunt your nights, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Your mind may feel blank or it may feel overwhelmed with thoughts that don’t stop. Your sleep might be restless and interrupted by frequent wakings. This can cause intense frustration and the need for daytime naps, creating a vicious cycle where falling asleep at night becomes even more difficult.

A general lack of energy and motivation can also lead to a constant sense of sleepiness. You may feel exhausted all the time, even if you’re plagued by insomnia. On the other hand, you may sink into a state of such drowsiness that you sleep far too much. This is called hypersomnolence and leads to feeling tired all day.

Depressed individuals may experience a variety of abnormal sleep patterns while they suffer from this condition.

Things you might notice yourself saying:

“It has been the weirdest thing. I’ve been sleeping 10-12 hours a night and I still wake up sleepy!”

“I’m up all night. I don’t know what’s waking me up, but I keep finding myself awake for random hours during the night.”

“I just can’t fall asleep. I feel numb. I’m exhausted, but I can’t seem to fall asleep.”

Physical Changes

Since our minds and bodies are inextricably interconnected, signs of mental illness will often display themselves physically. Health changes may occur. The way you perceive yourself and your physical health may change. Your cognitive abilities may suffer. People with depression often experience headaches, stomach pain, and digestive problems. Jaw clenching and hand-wringing can cause chronic pain.

Some individuals with depression suffer from chronic health conditions or pain, which makes their mental state worse. On the flip side, depression can contribute to a physical environment that makes chronic illness more likely. People with depression often feel that they just process things more slowly, whether that’s in movement, speech, or thinking. Memory can be affected as well.

Things you might notice yourself saying:

“I just feel like staying in all the time. These headaches seem constant in the last month or so.”

“I feel like I just can’t pick up speed lately. I’m just not my usual self.”

“I keep needing to stay home from work with stomach cramps. I just can’t make myself go in like this.”

Christian Counseling Can Help Depression Sufferers

Depression is a pervasive mental illness, and it’s being diagnosed more frequently each year, but many people with depressive symptoms are never diagnosed, and many never seek treatment of any kind.

There is hope. If you feel that you’re exhibiting some or all of these signs of depression, it’s vital to seek treatment and discover the underlying cause. There are a variety of issues that can cause these symptoms, and it’s important to explore what’s going on.

Our counselors in Newport Beach often work with clients who are experiencing depression. We look forward to meeting with you to help you work on regaining your everyday functioning and enjoying your life again.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2016). Facts and statistics. Retrieved from

National Institute of Mental Health (2015). Major depression among adults. Retrieved from


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OCD Definition: Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Are you plagued by fear? Do you engage in rituals motivated by superstition? How do you know if these are normal or are symptoms of a clinical disorder?

The general public is grossly uneducated when it comes to understanding obsessive-compulsive disorder. The acronym OCD is tossed about flippantly today, being used to describe behaviors as innocent as eating only blue M&M’s to more stereotypical rituals such as excessive hand-washing. This article provides some much-needed clarification.

OCD Definition

Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder may exhibit just one symptom (i.e. they experience obsessive, intrusive thoughts but do not engage in any compulsive behavior), but many sufferers exhibit both. Examples of single-symptom sufferers might include individuals characterized as workaholics or those with anal-retentive personalities.

Those who fall under the more common dual-symptom category experience obsessive thoughts and attempt to resolve their discomfort by performing the compulsive behavior. These people are usually cognizant of the fact that their thoughts and behaviors are not rational; the impulse to act on the thought is just too strong to resist.

OCD Examples


Descriptions of those experiencing obsessive thoughts might surprise you. According to Michael Maccoby, “[Obsessives] are self-reliant and conscientious….They look constantly for ways to help people, listen better, resolve conflict, and find win-win opportunities. They buy self-improvement books…and they like to focus on continuous improvement at work because it fits in with their sense of moral improvement.”

For those who are deep thinkers (e.g. philosophy professors, poets), obsessions are not always answered with compulsive behaviors. The nature of these obsessive thoughts, however, is quite unlike ordinary daydreaming. These individuals spend a considerable amount of time mentally running through scenarios, arguments, and ideas.

The philosophers of the ancient world are a classic example of thinkers who spent hour upon hour pouring over moral debates and ruminating over unanswerable questions. Not what many would call “normal” behavior.

In her book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process, Nancy McWilliams illuminates the personality differences that delineate the obsessive individual from the compulsive. The former feels no compulsion to act upon their continual, intrusive thoughts (p. 290).

Individuals with this obsessive personality structure are characterized as stubborn, tidy, prompt, thorough, thrifty, rigid, cerebral, persistent, and prone to arguing over semantics. McWilliams adds that “[t]hey are generally dependable and reliable and have high standards and ethical values” (p. 291). Their internal standard of excellence, while admirable, is often unachievable.

Unable to measure up to their own ideals, individuals with obsessive-only OCD battle shame and attempt to cope with it by rationalizing, moralizing, intellectualizing or compartmentalizing their intrusive thoughts. In tandem with shame, anger plagues these individuals who interpret negative emotion as inadequacy.

Rather than deal with this anger toward self for what it is, people with obsessions direct the anger toward “legitimate” targets to protect themselves from further shame (p. 293). This tendency to self-protect from negative emotions prohibits these individuals from expressing their emotions effectively.

Those who struggle with obsessive-type OCD not only have difficulty expressing emotion, but they also have difficulty making decisions as well. The thought of making a wrong choice often paralyzes them from making any choice, leading these individuals to vacillate between options until they eventually refuse to choose.

McWilliams gives a poignant example of this trait by illustrating how it would impact an expecting mother. In this illustration, the pregnant patient selects two obstetricians with different treatment philosophies from which she would choose one to deliver her baby. She deliberates so long, wavering between the two options, that she eventually goes into labor and has no other option but to have her baby delivered by the resident on duty at the nearest hospital.


Individuals with compulsions also self-protect against the shame of making a wrong decision, but instead of vacillating between options, these individuals impulsively choose one without any deliberation. Becoming sexually active with any individual with whom one has sexual chemistry is an example of this type of impulsivity.

What characterizes the behaviors as compulsive has little to do with whether the activity is beneficial or even logical; what makes the action compulsive is its irresistible nature. Interestingly, people with compulsions prefer manual tasks (i.e. woodwork, needlework) that do not involve much thinking.

Compulsive individuals do not hold a monopoly on ritualistic behaviors that have little bearing on outcomes. It would be difficult to find a person who has not acted compulsively at one time or another. Athletes perform rituals before or during their competitions, people “knock on wood” when a friend forecasts favorable results, and gamblers slide one more quarter into the slot machine for good measure (p. 301).

The ritual is motivated by a desire to prevent an unwanted event, such as a man with a compulsive personality who buckles and re-buckles his seatbelt four times to avoid a car accident. What makes these thoughts and behaviors a clinical issue is the amount of distress experienced by the individual as a result.

Obsession and Compulsion Together

While it is possible to experience one symptom or the other, as discussed previously, it is common to experience both obsessions and compulsions together. Clinically speaking, the compulsive behaviors aim to resolve the anxiety produced by the intrusive or obsessive thoughts. Ultimately, the two battle with each other for control.

A&E airs a show called “Obsessed” (available instantly on Netflix) which chronicles the struggle of sufferers with OCD. One episode follows Karen, a woman battling a fear of death after spending years in an abusive relationship. The constant anxiety and fear for her life that she experienced during this relationship metastasized into a pervasive terror even after the termination of that relationship.

Her obsessions involve thoughts of strangers lurking behind corners waiting to kill her, other drivers swerving on the road to hit her head-on, and earthquakes opening the ground to swallow her. Her compulsions involve repeatedly checking under her bed and in her closets for fear that an intruder entered her apartment since her last check. While she knows how irrational these obsessive thoughts are, her fears and anxiety compel her to act.

Christian Counseling for OCD

Individuals with OCD do not have to be enslaved to their obsessions and compulsions. Your struggle is not a sign of weak faith or disobedience to God’s exhortation to “fear not.” Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a clinical condition that requires professional treatment. The hope of Matthew 6:27, 31 and Philippians 4:6 is that He offers us the antidote for fear!

If this article resonates with you or sounds like someone you know, there is help. No one has to struggle alone. Contact a professional Christian counselor in Newport Beach who can come alongside those battling OCD and start the journey of recovery. Using research-based treatment techniques in a faith-based setting, these professionals can help you discover the roots of your thoughts and behaviors and help you learn to manage your symptoms. There is hope for you – freedom from fear awaits!

ReferenceMcWilliams, N. (2011). Psychoanalytic diagnosis: Understanding personality structure in the clinical process (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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