How Premarital Counseling Can Save Your Marriage Before it Starts

The days leading up to a wedding are packed full of visiting venues, tasting dishes from different caterers, selecting a cake, and finding the perfect gown to walk down the aisle in. In the flurry of activity, the most important to-do item is often overlooked — premarital counseling.

Dating and engagement are often times of infatuation. You love your partner’s loud laugh and the way he has a laid-back attitude toward life. Your heart melts a little when he smiles at you. Every moment together is thrilling and you feel like life with him will be a dream come true.

Fast forward to three years into marriage and you suddenly notice stark differences between yourselves, the things you once thought were adorable about your spouse annoy you, finances are putting a strain on romance and communication becomes a strenuous activity.

Why You Should Seriously Consider Premarital Counseling

Once you say your vows at the altar, there’s no going back. If you are going tospend the rest of your life with someone, shouldn’t you take the time to discuss in detail your desires and mindsets? Some couples wed because they make each other happy, but what happens when those feelings fade?

A Christian counselor in Newport Beach can help you gain a larger perspective on your relationship. A counselor might reveal to you a blind spot that’s been overlooked during the dating and engagement season. Agreeing to go to counseling can help you begin building your marriage on Christ’s solid foundation.

5 Reasons Why Pre Marriage Counseling Should Be Required

Matthew 9:6 tells us that when a husband and wife get married they become one, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

But becoming one isn’t always as seamless as it sounds. Two people living independent lives are suddenly thrown into a marriage where decisions and actions must be discussed and agreed upon together. Premarital counseling can help you ease into those early days of navigating married life.

The following is a list of five reasons why premarital counseling should be a top priority for seriously dating or engaged couples.

1. Identify conflict resolution styles

Chances are you and your partner have different views on how to resolve a conflict. Maybe you grew up in a household where your dad had an angry outburst, gave the silent treatment and then once his mood passed everything went back to normal. The conflict was never appropriately addressed. On the other hand, maybe you saw your parents address conflict immediately and openly.

Finding common ground with your future spouse on how to best solve conflict will give you a leg up in marriage. Conflict is inevitable when you are in a relationship. Maybe the wife needs thirty minutes of alone time to collect her thoughts and the husband is adamant about addressing the conflict immediately.

A middle ground can be reached to make sure both people are resolving the conflict in a healthy, beneficial way. Counseling gives you a safe place to create a plan before the conflicts arise.

2. Ask the hard questions in a safe place

Counseling sessions are known to bring the critical but tough questions to the table. The questions force you to plunge below the surface of your relationship and uncover your personal beliefs that may have been minimized during dating.

When you are blinded by wedded bliss you might forget to ask about when to have children, how to discipline the kids, who will provide financially, how will you split household chores, what church will you attend, and how to manage finances effectively.

3. Take the opportunity to grow in love

During the Passover Festival, Jesus knelt before his disciples and, in an act of true humility, washed their feet. “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

In John 13:1, the words “he loved them to the end” jump off the page. The same statement can be applied to marriage. Spouses are called to love like Jesus which means loving each other to the end.

Love is more than a feeling. Feelings fizzle out, but commitment provides a place for your love to grow and flourish. You don’t want your love to be like the leaves on a tree. As soon as the wind blows and hard times hit, the leaves vanish. You want a love like the roots of a tree.

The hurricane winds may come and bend your marriage, but it won’t break it. Roots mature over years of marriage, but the roots grow a little deeper during premarital counseling. It takes effort and energy to continue to grow those roots past the early stages of romance.

4. Marriage lasts the rest of your life

Brides and grooms spend countless hours and dollars to host the wedding of their dreams. Pinterest helps brides plan their perfect wedding and the wedding industry responds with sky-high pricing. If you want to put that much time and money into one day, wouldn’t you want to invest into the days that follow?

Marriage is definitely worth celebrating, but not at the expense of life after marriage. Premarital counseling makes sure you are both on the same page before racing off to your honeymoon. You can walk down the aisle with more confidence knowing you invested time into the important topics that will shape the future you share with your spouse.

5. God honors marriages that glorify Him

God is the author of our lives and the designer of marriage. Marriage will refine you and mold you in new ways. You will experience the valleys and the mountaintops with your spouse. A marriage blessed and strengthened by the Lord can withstand the storms. Marriage is a high and difficult calling, but everything our Lord calls us to He also empowers us to accomplish.

Get Wisdom from those Around You

A Newport Beach Christian counselor can equip and empower you to step into marriage knowing your spouse on a deeper level. Marital love is an expression of humility and self-sacrifice that brings honor to our Heavenly Father.

Your marriage can be an example to others of Jesus’ love for the church. If you are engaged to be married or seriously dating, consider investing some time to experience the benefits of premarital counseling.


“Forgiveness,” courtesy of David Nunez,, CC0 License; “Committed,” courtesy of Zoriana Stakhniv,, CC0 License; “To have and to hold,” courtesy of Jon Asato,, CC0 License; “Jesse & Terry,” courtesy of Vanessa Porter, Flickr Creative Commons, CC by 2.0 

Bipolar Disorder Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Bipolar disorder is often referred to as experiencing emotional “ups” and “downs,” however this broad description doesn’t accurately reflect or encompass the depth of this disorder.  Most people can admit to having some level of mood swings, so how can someone differentiate between fluctuating emotions and bipolar disorder?

Bipolar Disorder Causes Disruption to Daily Life

A break up happens and the wounded one finds herself feeling pretty down.  Eventually, time passes, the mood improves and life goes on. For people living with bipolar disorder, they cycle through intense elevated periods called mania and severe low periods called depression. These uncontrollable, unpredictable mood shifts normally disrupt the daily life of those with bipolar disorder.

Imagine feeling euphoria. You are on top of the world. But those feelings can’t be truly embraced because you know at some point the crash will occur. Your life plummets into a depressive state. The elation you once experienced is extinguished and replaced with suicidal thoughts, feelings of fatigue and apathy toward life.  It can feel like the world is coming to an end. Living with bipolar disorder can be similar to this.

Getting Familiar With Bipolar Disorder

It’s common to hear someone say,  “You are acting bipolar!” This assessment is often made incorrectly and is a contributing factor to why true bipolar disorder can be so difficult to identify.  Constantly changing your mind does not make you bipolar, nor does instant mood switching.

Three Bipolar Disorder Types

In general, this condition can be separated into three distinct bipolar disorder types: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and cyclothymia. Bipolar I is the classic, high-highs and low-lows. Bipolar II is an experience of hypomania (an elevated mood but not complete mania) and deep depression. Cyclothymia is a long-term cycling between periods of elevated and depressed mood, but never full mania or full depressive episodes over the course of years.

Everyone who suffers from bipolar disorder experiences it in a unique way. It’s possible that no two experiences are alike since the different stages of bipolar disorder create signs and symptoms that vary from person to person. If you recognize any of these signs or symptoms, or a loved one points them out to you, seeing a professional therapist is the best action to take to discuss how to manage the disorder and live a healthy life.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

What are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder? Here are a few signs that what you’re experiencing could be categorized as bipolar disorder.  Remember, bipolar disorder can be challenging to pinpoint. Discussing your concerns with a therapist is the best choice if any of these symptoms resonate with you.


A person who is in a depressive bipolar state will mirror a person with depression. This means the person could show signs of sorrow, lack of energy, decreased appetite, and loss of focus. Either a depressed state or a loss of interest in pleasure must be present in order to make a diagnosis.

You don’t have to cry copious amounts of tears to fit the depressed category. Depression tends to bring a general detachment from life and its events. You may see a few other changes like feeling exhausted all the time, feelings of inappropriate guilt, anxiety, and an unhealthy fixation on death.


What separates bipolar disorder from major depressive disorder is the presence of a “manic episode.” The DSM-IV summarizes a manic episode as “ a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).”

1. Inflated ego

During a manic phase, the person might appear overconfident or borderline narcissistic.

2. No need for sleep

You feel rested after two hours of sleep or have no physical desire to sleep.

3. Excessive talking

Bipolar disorder causes rapid talking that’s almost impossible to interrupt. The person will incessantly talk over others.

4. Racing thoughts

A person with bipolar disorder will jump from idea to idea or topic to topic. It appears their mind is going in a million different directions simultaneously and can become easily distracted. It seems impossible to slow down the racing thoughts.

5. Impulse activities

A manic episode will bring impulses from going out on a shopping spree to engaging in a sexual activity that’s not consistent with who the person is.

These behaviors often seem great in the moment, but quickly take over and become unmanageable.

The Subtypes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I experiences the maximum highs, but Bipolar II experiences only a “hypomania.” The moods aren’t as elevated, and the minimum length of an episode to qualify is four days rather than a week.

People experiencing hypomania can usually stick to their normal routines but with more of an emphasis on focused energy. With Bipolar I you may have only experienced the highs, but with Bipolar II it’s implied that you have experienced a major depressive state.

Cyclothymia is a more mild combination of hypomania with some depression. Your elevated mood might be more enjoyable because it’s not turning into destructive behaviors and your depression still allows you to function in day-to-day activities. It’s normally less intense than bipolar disorder but can still cause emotional distress over time.

What Are the Treatment Options For Bipolar Disorder?

Usually, treatment involves a combination of therapy and medication to target the problematic experiences. Some medications, such as antidepressants, can make mania worse. An antidepressant coupled with a mood stabilizer can help create stability and even out emotions.

Therapy complements the prescribed medication. Bipolar disorder doesn’t go away completely, but talking through bipolar disorder with a therapist can help to sharpen coping skills and teach you the tools to use when you sense an episode coming.  Family-focused therapy can be helpful to allow those closest to you learn about bipolar disorder and how to best support you. Incorporating your family in your journey can empower those around you to help you cope with the bipolar episode.

Don’t self-diagnose over the internet. If you found yourself nodding along to any of these signs, please make an appointment with Christian Counseling Newport Beach to discuss your symptoms with a  therapist who is qualified to diagnose disorders. Living with bipolar disorder can be confusing and frightening, but by following a tailored treatment plan you can move forward, feeling more confident in your ability to manage the disorder.

“Upset,” courtesy of Ben White,, CC0 License; “Concerned,” courtesy of Rahul Anil,, CC0 License; “Feeling Down,” courtesy of Patrick Denker, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Beach Run,” courtesy of Jacob Miller,, CC0 License

9 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children to Watch Out For

It’s been a watershed season of exposing men and women who committed sexual assault and harassment. Businesses are taking legal actions to terminate employees or pull contracts indefinitely.  If the #Metoo movement teaches us anything, it’s that sexual assault and abuse is often silenced and that there’s strength in numbers.

Parents never want to hear these heartbreaking words uttered from their child’s mouth, “I’ve been sexually abused.” Children are often under the care of other adults at school, church, a friend’s sleepover and even under their own roof.  In these seemingly harmless settings, horrendous acts are carried out.

9 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children to Watch Out For

Parents must be vigilant to monitor who their children interact with on a daily basis. Because sexual abuse is often a confusing and paralyzing experience, children may not verbally express what’s happening to them. But if a child is being abused, it’s likely you will see the following signs.

1. Increased Fear and Anxiety

Fear is one of the biggest hallmarks of a child who has suffered abuse. Children can become hypervigilant, constantly on the alert.  You may see mounting fear and anxiety as the specific time of day approaches when the abuse normally occurs or if you mention inviting the abuser over.

2. PTSD Symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only reserved for military veterans returning from combat overseas. The same symptoms are present in children who have suffered abuse. Panic attacks occur when certain “triggers” bring feelings of immediate stress.

Triggers could be a certain smell like the cologne the abuser wears, people who sound like the abuser, or certain sights that bring flashbacks. Another form of PTSD in children is having disturbing dreams or problems getting a good night’s sleep. Nightmares become prevalent and memories of the trauma can disrupt their concentration at school.

3. Mood Changes

Unreasonable crying or sudden excessive crying that wasn’t present before are expressions of children suffering from abuse.  On the other end of the spectrum, children can have angry outbursts and get frustrated easily spouting out hurtful words to those around them.They might withdraw from adults in the belief that every person wants to harm them or they may become hostile toward those in authority who neglected to protect them.

Because these times of abuse were often out of their control, they will grow up wanting to control everything in their lives. Eventually, children numb their feelings and become detached and emotionally absent. They self-protect by creating an impenetrable wall around their hearts.

A point can even be reached where they disassociate from the abuse altogether by either diminishing the effects of the abuse in their lives or never admitting that the abuse happened to them. Children who experienced sexual abuse are more likely to grow up into teenagers who contemplate suicide, have self-inflicted wounds, and show signs of depression.

4. Guilt and Shame

Children find ways to blame themselves for the abuse. Guilty thoughts invade their minds like, “I should have said something to someone else,” or, “I was aroused so does that mean I wasn’t abused?”

The abuser often reinforces this message telling the child that somehow the child made the abuser touch them. It’s a tug-of-war in the mind for children in this situation. They know something feels wrong, but the mixed messages, instilled fear, and false responsibility can create turmoil in their minds.

5. Fear of Intimacy and Closeness

Intimate relationships can be a challenge after enduring abuse. Although children may still embody an outgoing personality, they learn how to keep people at arm’s length to prevent further harm. Physical contact, which is often terrifying, may cause them to lash out at someone who innocently tries to give a hug.

Other children become overly clingy needing constant physical and verbal affection. Children that have experienced abuse find it hard to know the difference between appropriate displays of physical affection and inappropriate sexual touch.

6. Sexuality

Sexually abused children usually grow up not wanting to have sex at all or view having sex with multiple people as the only way to receive touch and attention. This ends up creating a bigger web of pain in their lives.

Children who have been hypersexualized from assault may make sexual comments to other students or have an advanced knowledge about sex. Of course, in today’s world children are often exposed to movies that are not age-appropriate and they pick up the terminology.  But if a five-year-old girl can describe certain adult acts in detail, this should set off alarms.

Some children who have been abused by someone of the same gender end up confused about their sexual orientation. Due to confusing (maybe even somewhat pleasurable) physiological responses related to their abuse, they may silently wonder whether or not they are actually gay.

Some people may try to reduce their distinctive gender features by cutting their hair, hiding their breasts, eating more food to gain weight and becoming unattractive, or neglecting basic hygiene routines in order to repel people.

7. Alarming Forms of Creative Expression

Children love to play. It’s a normal part of childhood. However, if the dolls are not just playing mommy and daddy, but participating in strictly mommy and daddy activities it is a glaring red flag.

Often creative expression becomes a safe outlet for children to be honest without verbally admitting to the pain forced upon them. Journal writing, social media posts, poems, and pictures can all tell a story that’s been silenced inside. Today, teenagers swarm to social media to share their fight with depression or struggle with suicidal thoughts.

8. Not Behaving Appropriately for Their Age

Of course, some little girls want to imitate their moms by dabbing on some lipstick or painting their cheeks with blush when they see their moms getting ready for the day. Wearing more revealing clothing or always wanting to put on perfume, makeup and doing their hair could possibly point to past abuse.

Some older children will revert to their younger behaviors like wetting the bed or sucking their thumb. These aren’t always signs of trauma, but these signs merging with some of the others mentioned here are good indicators of abuse.

If you hear of older friends being mentioned frequently begin to investigate. Yes, there are good mentors and influences out there, but someone showing an unhealthy amount of attention toward your underage child requires some additional attention from you. Normally, children form friendships with kids around their same age.

9. Turning to Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol can be used to not only numb pain from the past but make someone feel alive at the same time. Drugs and alcohol are a way to cope with the suppressed feelings and distressing thoughts. Drug and alcohol use can be a common coping mechanism for those who have experienced trauma in order to deal with disturbing thoughts.

If you are seeing unusual signs like these in the children around you, don’t ignore it – report it. Call your local CPS Office or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

Finding a Place of Healing

Christian counseling Newport Beach is just one way to begin a journey of healing and freedom. The Lord comes to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up our wounds (Psalm 147:3). If child abuse is a part of your story, Christian counseling Newport Beach offers a safe place to experience wholeness. Freedom is found by bringing things in the darkness into the light. Will you let someone help you today?

“Child of Light,” courtesy of Matheus Bertelli,, CC0 License; “Silent,” courtesy of Kat Smith,, CC0 License; “Wounded,” courtesy of Min An,, CC0 License; “Play time,” courtesy of,, CC0 License 

What is Chemical Dependency, Anyway? A Closer Look

Among lower income and homeless populations, easy access to drugs fuels the addiction crisis. For some, addiction to prescription pain relievers eventually leads to heroin use once the habit is no longer financially sustainable. Every day increasing numbers of addicts die from an overdose, but the chemical dependency epidemic cannot be blamed exclusively on easy access.

Alcohol abuse has often been seen as a separate, distinct problem from chemical dependency. While different chemicals do indeed affect the body uniquely, substance abuse of any kind – alcohol, narcotics or opiates – results from a psychosocial dynamic that is no respecter of substance. Because of this common framework, alcoholism cannot be segregated from other chemical addictions.

Drug and alcohol abuse typically stem from a person’s desire to cope with pain when healthy and adaptive coping skills are insufficient. The difference between alcohol and other chemical dependencies is not so much about what prompts the dependency but about how easily accessible the substance of choice is. Because alcohol is legal to purchase, it is not only readily available but is also more socially acceptable as well. Addiction to street drugs, on the other hand, requires a person to circumvent the law, which makes the addiction more costly and recovery more problematic.

Defining Chemical Dependency

What exactly is chemical dependency? It is difficult to define without acknowledging the many opinions that have informed our discussion of addictions over the years. An organic definition of dependency, for example, looks at the chemical composition of a substance (i.e. the “hook”) that makes addiction highly probable.

A moral definition of addiction considers one’s spiritual disposition (i.e. – lack of faith) as a leading contributor. A biological definition provides yet another vantage point in which a person’s brain is implicated as having an addictive bent (i.e. – an addictive personality). With all these differing perspectives, how does one arrive at the truth? There are a few things that we do know about chemical dependency.

Scientists and researchers inform us that addictions are hereditary. Does heredity point to a genetic predisposition toward chemical dependency, or does it imply that a family’s environment cultivates addictive tendencies through a culture of addiction that passes down to the next generation?

It is known that substances have a withdrawal component which strengthens the organic or biological argument. From a moral standpoint, the Bible forbids drunkenness and encourages Christians to be empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than intoxicated by wine. The theory that substances contain a “chemical hook”, however, proves rather outdated.

Johann Hari exposes this outdated theory in a powerful TED Talk entitled, “Everything You Think You Know about Addiction is Wrong”. I strongly recommend that you watch his presentation, or at least watch the condensed, animated version entitled “Addiction,” created by Kurzgesagt (translated, means “in a nutshell”).

The chemical hook theory arose from a study involving rats that were offered both water and heroin-laced water. The experiment showed that the rats overwhelmingly chose the heroin water over the regular water and showed signs of addiction. This finding was then generalized to human populations, despite later experiments that yielded very different results.

In one such subsequent experiment, the rats were still offered both water and heroin-laced water, but the conditions of their confinement were altered. Instead of a sparse cage, the rats were enclosed in a stimulating environment with other rats. This time, the rats did not show a preference for the heroin water.

It would be unethical to replicate this experiment with human subjects, but a look at the Vietnam War offers some insight into how humans might respond in kind. During the war, heroin use was prolific among soldiers with few other options for recreation or diversion. There was a fear that, when they returned home, their recreational drug use would have become a full-fledged addiction. On the contrary, most soldiers were able to give up heroin upon return to their families and civilian life.

Hari points out the discrepancy in the hook theory given the results of both the rat experiments and the Vietnam War example. When one’s environment is taken into account, addiction is seen in a different light. Difficult and hopeless surroundings (i.e. the sparse cage or the battlefield) provide the context within which drugs become a viable escape. In fulfilling and hopeful environments, however, drug abuse makes little sense.

The implications seem clear, but how can they be integrated into our thinking about and treatment of substance abuse disorders? While addiction cannot be oversimplified, one of the often overlooked components in treatment is an individual’s social context.

Professionals must consider a client’s environment when treating chemical dependency. Advocacy becomes a vital role for the clinician in helping identify support systems for their clients as well as encouraging vocational, volunteer, and recreational interests. When recovering addicts can find fulfillment and purpose in their lives, the draw toward substance use weakens.

One former addict stated that he “wanted to have a life worth being sober for.” When it’s all said and done, having a life full of meaning and purpose provides the best alternative to substance abuse as well as other non-substance related escapes. Whether an individual is battling a substance abuse issue or addiction to pornography or food, therapy aims to explore the pain that is being numbed and examine the context in which the coping mechanism became an addiction.

Christian Counseling Newport Beach desire is to come alongside those who are struggling with chemical dependency and work with them to achieve sobriety and to create a life worth staying sober for. These goals can be achieved one small step at a time with the strength that God gives and the encouragement of your support system.

“Walking Home,” courtesy of Jesus Rodriguez,, CC0 License; “City girl,” courtesy of George Gvasalia,, CC0 License; “Take a sip,” courtesy of Tanja Heffner,, CC0 License; “Field,” courtesy of Karl Fredrickson,, CC0 License