Do We Need a Communication Coach? How a Couples Counselor Can Help

Your nonverbal communication says more than the words coming out of your mouth. Your facial expression, the look in your eye, the tone of your voice, and your body language speak volumes.

When someone else is talking to you, their nonverbal communication is talking as well. As your mind processes what they’re saying, and what they’re not saying, you’re also thinking about how you’re going to respond!

It’s not surprising that we have trouble communicating with each other. When you hit a snag in an important relationship, a professional communication coach can help you untangle it.

Case Study: Jenna and Austin

Jenna and Austin have been married for five years and have two young children. They’ve agreed that Austin will be the breadwinner and Jenna will stay home with the kids.

Today, Jenna’s had a hard day. The kids have been difficult, the check engine light came on, she spilled coffee everywhere, and her mom called and gave her some “constructive” criticism that just ended up discouraging her.

When Austin comes home from work at 6 p.m., Jenna is trying to finish dinner while the kids whine and argue. The first words out of his mouth are, “You forgot to close the garage door last night.”

Can you predict what Jenna’s response might be? If you empathize with her feelings of being overwhelmed, you know she’ll be tempted to snap at her husband.

Austin could have prevented this scenario by assessing the situation for a minute when he came in. Instead, he was focused on something his wife did wrong, and he chose to confront her immediately.

This is a perfect example of the futility of communicating with someone who is distracted, anxious, stressed, or angry. Your chances of getting your point across in a helpful way drop significantly.

What does this mean? Should we never communicate unless everything is perfect? Not at all, but we should use wisdom to know what to say, how to say it, and when is a good time to speak.

A communication coach can offer effective communication tools that will provide practical help so you can speak lovingly and effectively.

The Benefits of a Communication Coach

Meeting with a communication coach is a great way to learn practical tools for communicating more effectively with your spouse or partner.

Here are a few examples of tools you might learn from a communication coach:

Take a minute

Just like in the example with Austin and Jenna, many arguments can be prevented if the person about to initiate conversation does three things:

1. Pause.
2. Assess the situation.
3. Make a reasoned decision about whether to speak at that moment.

If you’re feeling upset when you start a conversation, an argument will most likely follow, and effective communication won’t happen. The first thing to assess isn’t the topic you want to address, but how you’re feeling right now. Are you anxious? Is your stomach in knots? Are you angry? Is your heart racing?

What is your goal? Do you want to shame or hurt the other person? How will your words affect them? Are you trying to get your point across regardless of their feelings?

Are you trying to start an argument? Even if you aren’t trying to start an argument, have you had a lot of conflicts with this person lately?

Ask permission

The simple question, “Is this a good time to talk about x?” can prevent many, many arguments! If you ask permission, you’re honoring the other person from the get-go. You’re acknowledging that they have individual freedom, emotions, and their own stressors to manage. You’re giving them an opportunity to defer the discussion until a better time.

Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re putting the conversation off, not avoiding it altogether. If your spouse initiates a conversation about an issue, and you feel like they’re attacking you based on past conversations, let them know your concern.

If they tell you it isn’t an attack, give them the benefit of the doubt, but you have the freedom to end the conversation if they do start to attack you. Tell them you will continue the conversation only if they can agree to mutual respect.

Set ground rules

Arguments devolve quickly when the people involved fight unfairly. And when we are upset, that’s what we’re prone to do—act irrationally and emotionally. Anger and anxiety lower our capacity for logical thinking and relational bonding. We end up acting out of frustration instead of wisdom or love.

That’s why before you go into any discussion that might devolve into an argument, it’s best to have previously agreed-upon ground rules, such as:

  • Staying on topic: If the topic of conversation is corrective, meaning one person wants to discuss the other person’s shortcoming in some area, you have to stay on that one topic.

When someone confronts you about something, it’s very tempting to turn it around on them and point out one of their failures. Or, if you’re the person doing the confronting, you might be tempted to bring up other examples to “make your case,” but this just ends up coming across like an attack.

Instead of turning a constructive criticism into a long list of disappointments and failures, address one issue at a time and focus on resolving that.

  • Framing: If you think your conversation is going to be sensitive, try to prepare for it. Ask the other person when would be a good time to talk about a sensitive subject. If they don’t want to talk now, ask if they could talk in 20 or 30 minutes.

Some people, especially those with avoidant conflict styles, dread having a difficult conversation, but it’s important to have them anyway. If you’re afraid of how the other person will respond when you start the discussion, you can use framing to share your fears. “I need to talk to you about this, but I’m afraid you’re going to get angry or stonewall me.”

Framing gives the other person an opportunity to prepare themselves for what you’re going to say. Hopefully, they will be able to respond maturely and the conversation will have a better chance of not devolving into an argument.

  • Meta-conversations: Or, talking about talking. “When you said x, what I made up about it was y, and I felt z.” For example, “When you said you forgot to do that errand, what I made up about it is that you don’t care about my simplest requests, and I felt disappointed.”

You can even have a meta-conversation in the midst of a discussion. If you’re feeling hurt by how it’s going, use the template above to clarify what happened. If they won’t respond in a helpful way, it may be time to take a break from the discussion.

  • Avoid taking too much responsibility: We are each responsible for own emotions. Nobody can “make” us feel the way we do. Saying, “You made me angry” is not a valid accusation. Also, it’s normal to feel hurt, upset, or another negative emotion when someone gives us constructive criticism.

Sometimes we have an even more visceral reaction to any form of criticism. We might feel a deep sense of shame and woundedness arising from childhood hurt, and tempting us to lash out at the other person.

If we each stay on our emotional side of the street, we can resolve conflict and address issues without taking responsibility for each other. We are responsible for each other, but we can’t control the other person’s feelings or behavior.

Of course, we all influence each other, and when you love someone, it’s natural to want to improve their emotional situation or make them feel better. You can do your best to create a relational environment for happiness, but you can’t control the outcome, and you shouldn’t take the blame if they’re still not happy.

Picture this: you buy your child an expensive birthday gift. Think about the anticipation you feel before they open it. But, when they open it, they get upset because it’s not what they wanted.

Imagine your feeling of disappointment. Then, remember that it’s okay if your child feels differently than you do. If you choose to lash out in anger because your child seems ungrateful, even if they are legitimately being rude, it means that in some measure you were “owning” their reaction. You felt you deserved for them to react in a certain way.

It’s normal to be disappointed or hurt by other people’s words and actions. But lashing out in anger because we feel rejected is unhealthy. It means you allow your sense of self to be impacted by how other people respond to you.

As a parent, it’s easy to repeat emotional narratives from our childhoods, whether they’re good or bad. A licensed mental health professional can help you process those narratives so you can respond out of freedom instead of old patterns.

  • Body awareness: This might be a surprising ground rule for conflict, but physical sensations are closely tied to emotional situations. Our body has built-in defense mechanisms that help us survive intense or traumatic situations, but we’re not meant to live our everyday lives in a state of heightened alert.

Shutting down from your feelings isn’t healthy, either. It might seem like you’re protecting yourself when you do this, but you’re actually cutting yourself off from intimacy and healthy relationships with people you love.

So, when you find yourself having a difficult discussion with someone, check in with your body every so often. How do you feel? Is your chest tight? Is your stomach in knots? Do you feel shaky? Is your heart beating faster?

These physical signals are anxiety indicators. If your anxiety is rising, pause the conversation, tell the other person that you’re feeling too anxious to keep talking right now, and take a few minutes to calm down.

Deep breathing by counting to three as you inhale and exhale can help settle down your parasympathetic nervous system. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, pursing your lips like you’re blowing out a candle.

Like anger, anxiety can cause a conversation to go instantly downhill. If, instead of feeling anxious, you find yourself mentally checking out of (or dissociating from) your surroundings, center yourself back in reality. Touch a couch cushion, pick something up and notice its texture, or do whatever it takes to root yourself in the current moment.

  • Anyone can push pause: If someone is getting more and more upset, or starting to raise their voice, or sobbing, it’s time to take a break. Certainly, if someone is being verbally abusive, you have to stop talking. If someone has checked out and isn’t listening, stop trying to talk to them.

When you decide to take a break, use an “I” statement to identify why you’re stopping. “I feel like you’re not listening,” or “I feel hurt by what you’re saying,” etc. Setting this ground rule ahead of time allows the two of you to agree that you don’t want to argue, and pressing pause can help prevent that.

No matter what relationship you’re in, over time it will develop a history that gives you the potential to hurt each other. If you don’t process the hurts and frustration in your relationship, any difficult conversation will probably trigger them and make things harder to work through.

A licensed therapist or professional communication coach can help you set limits and navigate the use of communication tools in your relationship until you’re ready to consistently use them on your own. Contact one of the practitioners in our counselor directory to schedule an appointment today.

Photos:
“Conversation”, Courtesy of Alex Holyoake, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Attitude” Courtesy of Lucas Lenzi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Date Night”, Courtesy of Huy Phan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Communication”, Courtesy of Rawpixel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Find the Right Family Therapist for You

Could your family benefit from getting counseling together? If so, how do you find a family therapist that’s right for you? It’s normal to feel hesitant about finding a good match for your family. A therapist can make or break the entire counseling process.

By reading this article you’re taking the first step in what can be a journey of healing and hope. We’ll discuss different types of family counselors, how to select one who’s right for you, and how to budget for counseling. Take the time to consider each point in the selection process, and you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision.

Does My Family Need Therapy?

Just as with physical illness, early treatment for family issues can prevent many problems later on. Unfortunately, many of us don’t seek relational help until we are at our wits’ end.

You’ve probably made several attempts to heal the brokenness in your family. Maybe you feel like you’re in crisis mode now. Counseling becomes the last resort when you’ve done everything else. If you’re at this point, there is hope.

Secrecy empowers sin and strife. As painful as it can be to talk about what’s going on, verbalizing the issues can offer massive relief and help you figure out what to do next.

If you’re not in crisis yet, be encouraged. It’s wonderful to seek help early. Your problems are not too small; rather, they have huge potential for healing when they’re brought out into the open before they’ve taken over and destroyed lives.

What is the first thing to consider in your search for a counselor? Take a step back and assess your family’s most pressing needs. Although not everyone will immediately let their guard down in counseling, each member of the family should feel emotionally safe and honored in therapy.

What Are Your Family’s Specific Needs?

Do your best to nail down your family’s specific counseling needs, because some family counselors specialize in specific areas of treatment.

What areas of your family life need the most help? Many families seek help for their children in a group setting to offer their support. Sometimes couples need help with communication issues, or parents feel overwhelmed and want to set new and healthier patterns.

Read through the following types of therapy and think about which one(s) may meet your needs:

Couples Therapy

Counseling for couples can really run the gamut from neutral to desperate situations, but it’s not just for the desperate situations, even though many people associate marriage counseling with imminent divorce.

Couples therapy can apply to you if you are in a relationship or engaged or married. Maybe you’re in a destructive conflict cycle, or you just need help communicating effectively, or you want to strengthen your relationship even though you’re not having any major issues now.

Behavior Intervention

Behavior intervention applies to children who are struggling with problem behaviors, or to adults who are behaving inappropriately either in public or at home. In the family therapy setting, parents and the child will work with the counselor to identify unacceptable behaviors, set boundaries, and create rewards systems, along with other helpful skills.

This type of therapy really thrives on parental involvement. The parents can witness the tools the therapist uses during sessions, and then practice applying those skills at home with their child.

Behavior intervention for children usually starts with a conversation between the therapist and the parents. The therapist usually asks about three components of problem behaviors:

  • What happens before?
  • What happens during?
  • What happens after?

Once the parents explain how these situations normally transpire, the therapist will work with them and their child to change everyone’s behavior in all three areas by using education and practical skill development.

Parent Coaching

Behavior intervention focuses on both parents and children, but parent coaching focuses on the parents and how they can improve their skills. Children may be present for sessions, but the therapy won’t focus primarily on their behavior.

As opposed to an interventional approach, coaching helps parents develop positive skills to become more effective in nurturing their child(ren)’s physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. Coaching will address discipline, helping children to listen and obey, and setting appropriate boundaries for each member of the family.

Parent/Child Issues

Do you feel that your relationship with your child has had a breakdown, and you’re not sure where to turn to fix the damage? Family therapy can help rebuild your relationship and find the right parenting method for this particular child.

Children going through puberty or experiencing life stress or mental health issues may struggle to have a good relationship with their parents. They may exhibit disrespect and dislike. Parents also deal with life stressors, mental health issues, and other factors that can make positive parenting difficult.

Counseling can help stop unhealthy patterns and replace them with healthy habits that will facilitate a thriving relationship between parent and child.

Navigating Systems Involvement

Child Protective Services, law enforcement, or the schools may involve themselves in family life for a number of different reasons. Families in crisis often have experienced intervention in one or more of these areas. How do you navigate these systems? A clinical social worker can provide advocacy and therapeutic support.

What’s Most Important in a Family Therapist?

In large part, the success of your counseling experience depends on your comfort level with your chosen therapist. Therapists have different beliefs, skills, and temperaments. Some use tough love, while others have a gentler approach. Not everyone’s personalities will mesh well together, so it’s important that yours is a good fit with your counselor’s.

It’s not unusual to meet with a couple of therapists before you find the best one for you. Remember, you can interview them by asking questions about their practice and what the process usually looks like.

Before you even meet with them, you can screen out potential problems online by reading about their practice and any articles or blogs they’ve written. Finding the right personality and specialization will help you get the most out of therapy.

What kind of practice does your potential therapist work in? What are their specializations? Maybe you have young children, but your potential therapist is most experienced in working with adult children and parents. A therapist with child-specific experience may be skilled in using play therapy in the family counseling setting.

If you are looking for a faith-based counselor, you’ll want to carefully screen therapists to make sure you won’t be working from conflicting worldviews.

Other Considerations

Budgeting for therapy can concern potential clients quite a bit, so it’s important to discuss this practical side of seeking counseling.

First, consider the value you place on therapy and the perspective that it can preventative medicine for your family relationships. Yes, therapy is expensive, but as counselors, we truly believe it’s worth it.

Next, sit down and figure out exactly what you can afford to spend. When a therapist bills insurance directly, they are considered an in-network-provider. These providers will take payment from you and bill your insurance for you.

Some therapists will directly bill your insurance, making them an in-network provider. But many therapists don’t take insurance due to high operating costs; instead, they operate as out-of-network providers.

With an out-of-network provider, you will pay a fee for each session and receive a receipt. You can give the receipt to your insurance provider, and they may reimburse you for some or all of the fee.

Before you attend your first session, please call your insurance provider to find out if they will reimburse you for any counseling services rendered.

What if you don’t have insurance, or your insurance won’t cover counseling? You can choose to pay out-of-pocket for each session, most of which run between $150 and $200 each. Some therapists may have different fees or operate on a sliding scale based on income.

Both fees and sliding scales vary widely among individual therapists and practices, based on operating costs, client income, practice size, etc., so don’t hesitate to look in several places to find an option that meets your family’s needs.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make private therapy work for your family, you may be able to find a non-profit provider who takes state insurance or a local clinic that offers inexpensive therapy. Some people are able to meet with counseling interns who are in the process of receiving their master’s degree or licensure and can offer therapy at a reduced rate.

Where Can I Find a Family Therapist Near Me?

Now that you’ve considered some of the most important factors of finding the right family therapist for your needs, a good first step is to call your insurance company to discuss in-network providers who will bill sessions to them.

If you are looking for Christian counseling, you may be interested in our practice at Newport Beach Christian Counseling. We are one of the largest faith-based counseling practices, offering skilled, compassionate therapy for families, couples, and individuals. Visit our website to find a family therapist near you.

Photos:
“Family”, Courtesy of Laurel Harvey, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Ardanea, Morguefile.com, CC 2.0 License, “Her own girl”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “FlattopFamilyTime,” Courtesy of Flattop341, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)

What is a Codependent? Find Out Here

Around the world, people face many mental issues that can be resolved if action is taken sooner rather than later. Some are these are easier to recognize than others as their symptoms are quite clear to the person or to their loved ones. Others, however, are difficult to determine, such as codependency.

This article will discuss more about codependency in the hope that sufferers of it will have a better idea of the problem and what can be done.

What is a Codependent?

A codependent is someone who seeks out, consciously or even subconsciously, one-sided relationships that are oftentimes emotionally damaging and possibly even abusive. In this kind of relationship, the codependent usually tries to keep the other person happy by sacrificing personal time, wants, or needs. This “other person” is usually the spouse, but it may also be a parent, sibling, child, colleague, or a close friend.

Though seemingly strange to some, there are many who are in a codependent relationship. Some are aware that they are, yet many others are not sure if they are, thinking that they are just giving their all to love others.

How to Tell if it is Codependency

Generally, a codependent is a “people pleaser,” trying to do or say things so that others may like them. Such a person often relies on the approval or acceptance of others, causing them to feel bad when they are criticized, ignored, or rejected.

To ensure acceptance from other people, a codependent may repress their own feelings in favor of what the other person wants, making it difficult for them to set personal boundaries as they have trouble saying “no” to requests, even if these requests intrude on personal time or require too much of their personal resources.

Other unhealthy traits of a codependent include low self-esteem, constant fear of abandonment, and an uncertainty of who they really are. In fact, if a person has been a codependent for quite some time, they may have addictive behaviors or may be suffering from symptoms of major depression.

Some Examples

In codependency situations where the “other” is a substance abuser, the codependent may give in to requests for “another drink” or may facilitate the purchase of alcohol or drugs just to keep their loved one (e.g. spouse, parent, sibling) happy. In cases of sexual codependency with a spouse or a girlfriend or boyfriend, this may mean doing something sexually even if they are not comfortable doing so. In codependency at the workplace, this may mean always rendering extra service to be of help, even if it causes much stress and fatigue.

The Desire to be Needed

From afar, many may view the codependent as the victim who should be applauded, rather than stopped, for their efforts at self-sacrifice as they are the ones going the extra mile to be of help. However, when viewed closer, a codependent is actually trying to manipulate the actions of those around them to fulfill their desire to be needed.

The fear of pain or abandonment, real or imagined, is what usually fuels such actions. In domestic situations, the codependent may be afraid of the pain that will follow if the “other” becomes angry.

It is also possible that the codependent is afraid that the “other” will leave them, so they try to be a “good” wife, husband, or child. At work, there may be that fear of rejection by peers or their superiors, which causes the codependent to work extra hard, even if it is no longer healthy.

Sadly, even if the “abusive relationship” has ended, codependents often find themselves attracted to similar, one-sided relationships in the future, believing that they are not worthy of something better, even if such a relationship is literally hurting them. It is not a good situation to be in.

Drawing the Line between a Good Christian and Codependency

While it may be easy for others to recognize the unhealthiness of codependency, for some Christians, the line may be blurred. Throughout Scripture, Christ’s disciples are asked to love others:

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. – 1 Corinthians 10:24

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. – Luke 6:35

Thus, as a follower of Christ, a codependent may become confused, thinking that their personal sacrifice is for the sake of the other.

However, in the Bible, it can be seen that our Lord Jesus set boundaries. Though he loves his people and gave his life for them, he did not become a slave to everyone’s whims, especially when sin was involved. Instead of working for the praise and approval of people, he only sought the approval of his Father in heaven.

In John 5:44, it says, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” This means that we ought to look to God for approval, not to others.

Seeking Help through Christian Counseling

As in all problems, the initial step is to acknowledge that there is a problem with codependency. Next, one must seek for help, since overcoming it on your own will be very difficult indeed.

In Christian counseling, encouragement will be given, and sound counseling methods will be applied to help the codependent change their mindset about their situation. It is really hard to step out of one’s usual relationship patterns to try something new, so professional help is needed to reframe the sufferer’s thinking patterns.

But most importantly, the Christian counselor will connect the sufferer to God who can fully empower them to break this cycle. Through prayer and meditation on Scripture, the codependent may realize that their life depends on God alone and not on the approval other people. This will give them the strength to reject disadvantageous requests; say “no” to abuse and ridicule; and overcome this unhealthy dependency on others.

If you or a friend suspects that you are in a codependent relationship or that there are signs that you are leaning towards codependency, seek help soon from a Christian counselor. God designed us so that we will be wholly dependent upon His grace and love, so it is important that you are able to break free from codependency.

Photos:
“Dependency”, Courtesy of Lautaro Andreani, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yes”, Courtesy of Chris Benson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fear of Abandonment”, Courtesy of Rebcenter Moscow, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Counseling”, Couretsy of Tiyowprasetyo, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Is Emotional Affair Recovery Possible?

Emotional affairs aren’t often talked about but can be as disastrous to relationships as physical affairs would be. You might be asking yourself, “Are emotional affairs even real?”

Unfortunately, not only are emotional affairs real but they are increasingly common in our extremely connected world. Spouses who cross certain emotional boundaries with someone other than their spouse are most likely involved in an emotional affair.

Whether you are the one who is trying to define the relationship you are having with someone outside of your marriage or you are the spouse who wants to understand what to do next, this article might be just right for you.

4 Steps to Emotional Affair Recovery

Here are four steps to achieving emotional affair recovery:

Step 1: Accept that you are participating in an emotional affair.

Emotional affairs often begin as casual friendships, so it can be hard to identify in the early stages. Normally, people are looking for something in another person that they aren’t receiving from their spouse.

Let’s say your spouse never compliments your appearance or talents. At work, your assistant is constantly building you up and giving you daily compliments. You begin to grow closer to your assistant and further away from your spouse.

You begin to look forward to seeing your assistant, making sure you are looking your best. Those everyday compliments transform into late-night chats about home life and work stress. Your assistant is overly compassionate and nurturing, something you haven’t felt from your spouse in years.

Although you notice desires begin to arise, you tell yourself that you respect your marriage too much to jeopardize anything. As the months pass, you begin to celebrate special moments in your life with your friend at work exclusively.

Your wife thinks you are constantly working late, but you are spending time at the office working with your assistant and swapping stories. Your assistant takes emotional priority over your spouse and you begin to feel a greater intimacy with her.

One night you get in an argument with your spouse. She doesn’t remember something you told her that was important to you. Suddenly, you remember it wasn’t your wife you shared these feelings with, but your assistant at work. You are not sure how your appropriate relationship turned inappropriate, but you now recognize that it has to stop. You want to make things right.

Here are some common signs that you are in an emotional affair:

  • You feel you have to hide your conversations with your friend from your spouse.
  • You begin to send more flirtatious messages to each other.
  • You find ways to spend more alone time with this person.
  • You desire to spend more time with this person and make sure you look your best if you know you will see him or her.
  • You compare your spouse to this friend, noticing your friend has qualities your spouse lacks.
  • You share personal issues with your friend because you see them as someone you can trust.

Step 2: Have a conversation with someone.

Now, that you have identified what’s happening as an emotional affair. The next step is to have a conversation with someone, admitting to the emotional affair.

If you are comfortable talking to your spouse about what’s been going on, this might be the ideal place to start. If you don’t feel safe sharing with your spouse yet, enlist the help of a pastor or Christian counselor to support you as you prepare to share with your spouse.

You might be afraid of the outcome of sharing this news with your spouse. Guilt and shame could be overwhelming right now and you are still confused exactly how your friendship became something more. Telling someone will help bring freedom into your life and put you on the path toward healing.

Broken places in your marriage can be restored as you learn more about root problems. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” There is power in talking to a pastor or a Christian friend of the same sex and asking for prayer.

It’s important to share, but you still might be wondering how to begin a conversation of this nature. You can start by saying something simple like “I really got caught up in a situation that went too far emotionally. I would like to tell you about it now.”

Your goal is to share with someone (spouse, counselor, or pastor) what has been happening and then work toward discovering what led you to enter into an emotional affair. A Christian counselor can offer ways to ensure you avoid going down the same path in the future.

Step 3: Find a Counselor

It would be beneficial to find counseling individually and with your spouse. Individual counseling will help you uncover why the affair began and continued over time. A Christian counselor will walk you through different aspects of marriage and what a healthy marriage looks like to you.

You might be dealing with a past hurt that you carried with you into marriage. Individual counseling can help make you healthy and whole which will then contribute to a healthy marriage.

If you are the one who just found out your spouse had an emotional affair, counseling is a safe place to share your current feelings. You might be dealing with anger or bitterness that can be talked through with a professional before beginning a dialogue with your spouse.

It is helpful to have a conversation with a counselor about ways for you to regain confidence in yourself and your marriage. Meeting with a counselor will grant you clarity and help you move forward in a healthy manner.

Marriage counseling is vital at this point. A Christian counselor can help you both navigate your emotions so that you can understand where things may have taken a turn in your marriage. Counseling sessions are meant to equip you with the tools to communicate with your spouse.

It’s difficult to recover from an emotional affair without understanding fully why the affair happened, what maintained the affair, and how to prevent an affair in the future. A Christian counselor is trained to work through the deepest of pains and more complicated of emotions.

Step 4: Forgiveness

After going through the previously mentioned steps, you might be at the place where you are willing to work on forgiveness.

You will likely have to decide what forgiveness will look like for you either as the person asking for forgiveness or having to forgive. Some people need a verbal apology and explanation of what was wrong and how they will not do it again.

Other people don’t value a verbal apology and would rather see proof of changed behavior. The two people in the marriage should discuss what the offense is and how the future will be different. Trust-building is an important part of this step.

Forgiveness is unique to each individual so understanding what your spouse is needing from you in order to forgive is helpful.

You don’t have to face emotional affair recovery alone. Contact a Christian counselor to begin your journey toward healing and restoration today.

Photos
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Are You and Your Spouse Having Boring Sex? What to Do

When sex becomes redundant in marriage, couples complain of a boring sex life. It’s like a domino effect in the bedroom. If you or your spouse think you’re having boring sex then intercourse often becomes nonexistent, which can lead to a host of other marital problems.

After years of marriage, going through the same playbook can become tedious. Think of it like enjoying your favorite meal every single day. It might be your favorite, but over time you will get tired of eating the same dish, prepared the exact same way.

Why Does Sex Get Boring?

Humans are creatures of habit. Spouses find what works for them and, because there is a level of security involved, lack the desire to deviate from the routine.

Not everybody wants to step outside their comfort zones, especially when it involves changing bedroom activity or admitting things could be improved in the bedroom. However, if you want your sexual relationship to thrive, both parties will need to endure some necessary discomfort to become sexually satisfied.

Fear can intensify as partners become more important to each other. Nobody wants to rock the boat by asking for certain things they like. It’s important to respect each other, but avoiding these conversations about specific preferences will only create a silent wedge in the relationship.

When it comes to sexual intimacy, keeping the peace won’t be beneficial in the long-term. If things have grown stale, it’s time to sit down and address the issue directly.

How to Fix Boring Sex

You can’t fix anything that you haven’t admitted to being in need of repair. Once you’ve agreed to work on the sexual side of your marriage, the next step is to be vulnerable. You must let your guard down and have conversations that dig deeper into your sexual desires that aren’t being currently fulfilled.

What is something you would like in bed but are afraid to ask for? What is something you have wanted to try, but normally resist doing?

These conversations are rarely easy, especially to those who aren’t familiar with sharing intimate feelings and desires. Refusing to share will only keep your sex life stagnant. As I’ve always heard said, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

This is not an opportunity to guilt your spouse into doing something or to be overly forceful. Many men and women have experienced certain pain in the past, where boundaries are necessary to protect themselves from reliving certain pain. The goal of this discussion is to be open and honest in an effort to feel safe talking about sensitive subjects.

Insisting on hiding parts of yourself from your spouse will only cause tension in your marriage. In the end, both people must be willing to hear each other out and take a step of courage together.

Sex should be mutually meaningful and enjoyable. Trying new things together can create a sense of adventure and a deeper bond.

Christian Counseling for Boring Sex

If you, or your spouse, want to reignite the spark in your relationship, consider marking an appointment to meet with a professional Christian counselor.

Counseling is a safe and private place to discuss personal problems that you might have trouble discussing normally. Counselors are trained to draw out the reasons for boring sex and create a plan for you and your spouse.

Photos:
“Under the Covers,” courtesy of Prinz Peter, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Still in Your Arms,” courtesy of Toa Heftiba, unsplash.com, Public Domain; “Indie Cuddles”, Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Back of the Car,” courtesy of picjumbo.com, pexels.com, CC0 License

Are Christians Allowed to have Sexual Fantasies?

References “A Celebration of Sex” by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

Getting married doesn’t mean you’ll never notice another attractive person. It’s normal to recognize that someone is good-looking and as long as you respond with integrity this isn’t something to feel guilty about.

God created us to be imaginative, but because of our sin natures we often use the gift of imagination for evil purposes, such as sexually depraved thoughts. By contrast, it’s vital for Christians to cultivate a healthy sexual thought life. If you’re married, this doesn’t mean repressing sexual thoughts; it means channeling them appropriately.

If sex within marriage is good, then thinking about it must be good too, as long as our thoughts love and honor our spouse (for example, avoiding fantasies of degrading or harmful behavior).

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:13-14

Sexual sin first gains a foothold in one’s thought life. Here are some tips for avoiding it.

How to Avoid Sexual Temptation and Relationship Problems

Don’t Linger

“Keep your gaze moving rather than lingering.” (79)

Again, it’s normal to simply recognize that someone is attractive, but it’s sin to allow that thought to turn into something more. This means you need to avoid “checking out” anyone other than your spouse.

Casually noticing someone’s appearance is different than looking them up and down with a lingering gaze. Rosenau suggests the “one-second” glance as a helpful rule.

Avoid Ungodly Media Sources

Sexual messages permeate our culture, but this doesn’t mean you’re doomed; after all, alcohol commercials are almost as pervasive, yet you certainly wouldn’t do a shot every time you saw one. Avoid any form of media that encourages adultery, hook-ups, casual sex, etc.

The entertainment industry glamorizes illicit sex, yet often ignores the resulting fallout of heartache, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, broken families, and more.

 

Avoid Adulterous Sexual Fantasies

Keep your thoughts far away from going down this road. Adhere strictly to this rule, especially where it concerns people who are accessible to you. Sin begins in the heart. The more often you cultivate sinful fantasies, the less resistance to temptation you will have when the opportunity presents itself. Cut this sin off at the root where it counts, in your thought life.

Focus on the Positive

We all have physical flaws; don’t focus on your partner’s while fantasizing about perfection. “Continued fantasies about women with big breasts, or men with muscular shoulders, are stupid if your partner is small. The same can be said about not taking the energy to allow your mate to be erotically attractive to you and fantasizing that you are making love to someone else.” (79)

It’s futile and selfish to focus on your partner’s imperfect characteristics; instead, pay attention to the qualities you most admire about them, both inside and out.

Refresh your Relationship

Anything can get worn out over time, even your thought life regarding your sexual relationship. Creative lovemaking starts in the mind; consider new experiences you and your spouse could explore together. You can start with these ideas from Rosenau:

  1. Describe a sexual fantasy out loud, or write it down, including how both you and your partner would participate, where and when it would take place, and why it appeals to you.
  2. Ask your spouse to do the same, and share them with each other.
  3. Elaborate on your spouse’s ideas by adding some of your own. Keep it lighthearted.
  4. If you’re uncomfortable with any aspect of your spouse’s fantasy, share why in an honest, loving way.
  5. Create a list of mutually appreciated ideas, and plan when you’ll implement one or more of them.

Christian Counseling: How it Can Help Your Sex Life

Processing sexual difficulties in your relationship can take a lot of time and patience. Conversations may be challenging, awkward, or lead to arguments or misunderstandings because this is such a sensitive subject.

Professional Christian counseling can help you verbalize your thoughts and feelings and address any conflict the two of you have. Our counselors combine both a clinical and Biblical approach that seeks to apply God’s principles to the sexual relationship in marriage.

Photos
“Together at Sunset,” Courtesy of Ryan Holloway, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Romance,” courtesy of Nguyen Hoangnam, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0 License; “Empty bed,” courtesy of HS Lee, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Indie Cuddles,” Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Low Sex Drive in Women: Common Causes

Women are masters at spinning multiple plates. They spend all day taking care of children or working at the office and then come home to cook meals, bathe kids, nurse others back to health and solve daily dilemmas. There’s no clocking out.

When life gets overwhelming and stress takes a toll, there’s little time or energy to think about having sex. Sex can start to seem like one more thing to add to the ever-growing to-do list. Resentment may even grow between husband and wife.

A wife feels like she’s given every ounce of herself and then her husband asks for even more of her. Life can feel like everybody in the house is constantly taking from you, without any replenishment occurring.

The lack of a sexual appetite can create feelings of guilt and shame. Women often think there’s something wrong with them due to the lack of desire to have sex. If there’s no underlying physical problem, take time to explore the reasons for your low sex drive.

Reasons For a Low Sex Drive in Women

Sex, when it’s pleasurable, creates intimacy, oneness and forms a stronger partnership. But if someone has a higher sex drive and initiates frequently, the lower-drive spouse may begin to feel pressured into having sex. Here are a few reasons women may find themselves struggling with a lower sex drive.

1. The Effect of Motherhood on Sexual Desire

Hormone changes can dramatically decrease the desire to have sex. If you’ve been pregnant, or are in the early years of raising children, it can feel like your body no longer belongs to you.

Saying no to sex may be one way a woman regains control over her physical body during the high demands of motherhood.

Some moms will say no simply because they are exhausted from the level of energy exerted taking care of children. Body image insecurities can also create a hesitation to engage in sexual intimacy with your spouse. Discuss some ways pressure can be alleviated and a feeling of romance can be rekindled to create mutual desire.

2. Marriage Problems

If there’s conflict or issues in your marriage this can disrupt your sex life. Who wants to be intimate with someone you aren’t getting along with? Problems in a marriage can make it tough to get in the mood. In this instance, it’s important to enlist the help of a counselor to uncover the root of the issue and seek reconciliation in the relationship.

It’s important to work on marriage problems as they arise in order to reduce their negative impact on the relationship, including the sexual relationship. It’s one thing to believe your marriage is a priority, but it’s important to take practical steps to keep it that way. The more issues fester, the more work it takes to get back to a place of intimacy.

3. Dissatisfaction with the Sexual Relationship

When sex becomes monotonous, it can strip away every trace of desire. A concrete routine makes sex too regimented. As the years pass, it’s easy to fall into a familiar pattern, but this can make sex more dull than delightful. The beginning of a relationship is usually full of passion and intense connection.

Over time, that physical attraction begins to fade or goes in different phases. Sex starts to seem more like a task to accomplish during the day. If emotional needs are being met consistently, this can increase satisfaction in a sexual relationship.

Physical satisfaction isn’t the ultimate goal but pursuing and mutually enjoying each other is. It may take a few years but many couples discover what works for them in order for each partner to feel satisfied.

4. Stagnancy in the Sexual Relationship

Going through the motions will only widen the intimacy gap between husband and wife. If you’re not fully present, it’s impossible to make a connection. Sometimes all that’s needed is a simple change. Verbalizing your needs respectfully can move a relationship forward again.

Maybe you need a different form of affection to boost your sex drive, or your husband to watch the kids while you go for a pedicure, or you need an evening away together to get excitement growing again. Women have different reasons for their low sex drive which means not every woman will recover their sex drive in the same way.

Talk about ways that you aren’t being fulfilled and come up with an action plan to ignite those passionate feelings again. Start the conversation with your spouse about trying something new in your sexual relationship. Sex isn’t meant to feel like an assembly line, but an adventure you experience with your spouse.

Christian Counseling to Discuss Low Sex Drive

There are many reasons why sex drive can diminish. Counseling provides one way to narrow down the search and find the true reason why your sex drive isn’t as high as it should be. A Christian counselor can provide a safe, mature environment for you and your spouse to work on your intimacy issues and develop a deeper bond.

Photos
“Girl with Copper Hair,” courtesy of tintenfieber, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “A Mother’s Love,” courtesy of Tanja Heffner, unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Happily Ever After”, Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Indie Cuddles”, Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Christian Marriage Counseling: Should You Try It?

If you and/or your spouse are considering marriage counseling, you should not be surprised if you encounter a great deal of resistance. Typically, when a couple reaches the point of needing a marriage counselor the situation has become bad enough that they are even willing to talk to a stranger about it.

In many cases, shame has entered the picture, making the choice to seek counseling even more difficult and more complex. By this point, you are probably asking if there is any real value to marriage counseling, or if it even works.

It should come as no surprise that the answer is yes, but that its relative success depends entirely on both parties’ level of dedication both to each other and the counseling process.

Though there is a spectrum of opinions on marital counseling, the fact remains that you are attempting to fix the one relationship that is most valuable to you, so you might need to get past a degree of reluctance start down the road.

Arguments in Favor of Marriage Counseling

1. The Need for a Mediator

Unfortunately, when a couple realizes that their marriage needs help in the 11th hour, communication deteriorated to the point that they are unable to talk through the important issues without arguing.

They need someone to play referee and send each of them back to their corners, to make calls on fouls or boundary violations, and help redirect the way they talk to each other. This way, each person’s side can be voiced and emotional responses toned down.

As our anxiety or anger grows our ability to reason declines, as well as our ability to bond. Only when both spouses contain or manage their emotions (with deep breathing techniques, for example) is mature conversation about tough subjects possible.

Until both parties are able to control their emotions, it is necessary to have a third party on hand to prevent important conversations from degenerating into an argument.

2. The Need for a Fresh Perspective

A second class of issues that can develop within the marriage relationship is conflict that has sometimes formed over the course of years or even decades. A couple can find themselves trapped in unhealthy cycles of feeling, thinking, and communicating. When these problems are left unaddressed over time one can begin to feel that change will never happen.

Talking with a counselor can not only bring a fresh set of eyes to the problem but should ideally add some expertise and experience to the mix. Therapists have the skills to help you break down the walls you’ve put up in response to painful relationship problems, understand the core issues, and establish workarounds to eliminate their effects.

3. The Need to Bring Hope

Long-term persistence of marital issues can lead to that the situation will never (and indeed can never) change. Staying together while feeling like this will only result in living in a world where your relationship is a mere shell of what you’d hoped it would be.

Making the decision together to seek help from a marriage counselor is a hopeful sign for the future. This simple action proclaims that overcoming your problems and finding a new and better way to relate, encourage emotional growth, and encourage relational health is possible.

Remember that while happiness may be a by-product of having one’s needs cared for, it is not the main goal. Feelings of happiness come and go, but feelings of gratitude and trust are ultimately more.

4. Improving Bonding by Overcoming Hardship as a Team

Marital problems can make the relationship seem like a war zone. You begin to feel like you are stuck in the same foxhole shooting at each other.

Once you come to admit what a terrible waste of time it is, a therapist can help you learn to work together against a common foe. Working as one, you will learn to safely navigate the battlefield together, or even better, fortify your firing position to create a space of strength from which the two of you can face anything life brings.

Have you heard the term “war buddy bond”? When soldiers have experienced war together they develop a bond deeper than family ties, stronger than friendship or affection. It is a deep-rooted interest in the other person’s wellbeing which drives their ability to fight for them when they are fighting through internal or external turmoil.

Sometimes, “we have met the enemy and he is us”. We allow negative self-talk to control our thoughts. Spouses who are closely bonded can point out each other’s negative attitudes without initiating feelings of shame. Instead, they can help the struggling spouse back to a more accurate self-evaluation.

There is a kind of beauty in fighting the battle together. Eventually, you will come to realize that you are actually living out your marriage vows by loving, honoring, cherishing, and being there for each other as God has designed for you to be.

5. Doing Hard Things

People typically take the path of least resistance. This is not uncommon or something to feel bad about. However, nearly everything meaningful in life requires effort – sometimes a lot of it. Of course, there are occasions when you need to “take your ball and go home” but giving up too easily and too often can make it one’s default setting.

Unless our marriage has been damaged such that there is nothing left worth saving, there is typically something good left that is worth the effort to try to save. Something in our spouse caused us to say, “I want to be with this person for the rest of my life.” This is something to keep firmly in mind.

Working through marital issues together with a counselor is the best way to return to the place where you recall what you loved about your spouse, and also to discover some new things about them to love.

6. The Stakes are Huge

When a marriage fails, it never does so in a vacuum. Every single relationship that the couple has is impacted. It goes without saying that the failure usually causes devastation to both partners, and in more ways than one. Any children involved can be so heavily damaged by it that it can destroy their capacity for trust in relationships and affect their ability to commit to marriage, themselves.

Meanwhile, relationships with extended family are fractured, even when a divorce is “amicable”. Family bonds are damaged as well, and though they may survive, they will be forever changed.

Friendships can fracture, as mutual friends of the divorcing couple are forced to take sides. In the same way and for the same reasons, church relationships can become strained. Finally, there is still a stigma rightly associated with divorce. Even if you eventually move past it, at some level you will always feel regret.

Arguments Against Marriage Counseling

In spite of the arguments in favor of Christian marriage counseling, but it isn’t for everyone. A number of things should be considered, such as your current emotional state, the level of willingness, and whether you have the diligence to find a suitable counselor. The following factors should be considered if you are thinking about marriage counseling.

1. Both Spouses Need to Be (or Become) Committed

It happens quite frequently that one or both partners experience some hesitation to begin counseling, although those feelings typically dissipate as the benefits of counseling become more obvious. However, when one spouse wants counseling and nags their partner into attending, causing the resistant party to sit there with arms folded, refusing to cooperate, no real progress is going to be made.

It takes hard work to bring about change, and a spouse continues to resist the process shows themselves to be unwilling to change. If your spouse is recalcitrant it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get therapy, but when their resistance continues through therapy sessions, it might be wiser to end the therapy.

But if the spouse is willing to continue the therapy and shows any signs of engaging, even with a bad attitude, it is best to give the therapy a chance. How they’re engaging is less important than the fact of their engagement.

However, if the spouse sits there in silence, or only responds with negativity or criticism, it is probably best to just be done. In order for any progress to be made, both partners have to want it to work.

2. It May Be Too Late

Sadly, some couples don’t try to get counseling until they are way past the point of no return. If communication has deteriorated to the point that words are only being used as weapons, no progress can be made in or out of counseling.

Progress can only be gained when both partners are willing to humbly repent of their need to be right, vindicated, and to pay back their spouse for injuries (real or imagined).

Both spouses need to be convinced that something was good in the relationship that though lost, can still be saved. This can only happen when we can admit to and repent of our part in the breaking of the relationship. Lack of forgiveness spells the beginning of the end in any kind of relationship.

3. Spouses Have to Want to Change

If a spouse is involved in infidelity, agrees to counseling, but refuses to stop the affair, progress in therapy will be impossible.

Perhaps a spouse is engaging in destructive, disruptive or damaging behaviors and refuses to get help. This means that they are choosing their behavior over their marriage, which amounts to a violation of their marriage vows. They essentially saying that they will hurt whoever they want in order to please themselves.

Such a statement will bring nothing but heartache to the betrayed partner. Such a spouse no longer has your best interests at heart and has already left the marriage at least on an emotional level.

4. Individual Issues May Need to be Worked Through First

Marriage counseling may not currently be the best choice if either or both spouses have a history of serious emotional trauma before the marriage. Extra work may need to be done so that the person can separate old emotions related to the trauma from new emotions associated with the marriage.

Some couples may begin counseling together, only to split off into individual sessions in order to focus on their individual needs. If progress is made individually, therapists may reconvene the couples’ counseling or stop sessions if progress was sufficient.

5. Know Your Limits

There can be any number of personal reasons why counseling wouldn’t be beneficial though a person may have to give counseling a try in order to figure out what those reasons are. People sometimes have a pathological aversion to taking advice or are so pridefully convinced that they are right, that no one can convince them that they are wrong.

However, if a person with that attitude actually wants counseling, it is a good indicator that they recognize that there is a problem in the first place and want change. The extent of the possible change won’t be evident to them until they give counseling a try.

Anxiety at the very thought of marriage counseling could prove incapacitating, preventing one from ever seeking it. In that situation, a psychiatrist can help you find the proper medication to reduce your anxiety to the point that you can get counseling.

6. Finding the Right Counselor

Sadly, there are some therapists who provide really bad counsel. For example, a counselor advised a woman in marriage counseling to have extra-marital affairs in order to better understand the adulterous feelings she had – behavior which would be disastrous to the marriage.

If you become persuaded that your therapist is not helping fix your marriage problems, break things off, immediately. This doesn’t mean that you throw in the towel on counseling, but it is better to have no counseling than worthless or destructive counseling.

Typically, it is better to get counseling for seemingly insurmountable problems in a marriage, than not. If both spouses desire to work at it with a counselor then there is a good possibility of success.

Photos:
“Couple on Seine,” courtesy of Zoetnet, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0 License; “Conversation”, courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Committed,” courtesy of Zoriana Stakhniv, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heartache,” courtesy of Takmeomeo, pixabaycom, CC0 Public Domain License

What is an Emotional Affair? Identifying and Protecting Against It

When we think of affairs, we often think of soap opera scandal, and of husbands and wives jumping into bed with each other. But many types of affairs actually occur on a purely emotional level.

Maybe you’re wondering, “What is an emotional affair?” An emotional affair is when a spouse is getting their needs met by someone of the opposite sex who is not their own partner. And it happens a lot.

What is an Emotional Affair? Here are Some Examples

So, say a husband has a real interest in music but the wife has never been at all musical. Sensing a lack of interest from his spouse, the husband may join a community music group. There, he meets an attractive woman, and they get on well. He realizes that he shares a common interest with this woman and that she appreciates his talents more than his own wife does.

He starts looking forward to spending time with the woman, as he enjoys the company and appreciates being encouraged and built up in his abilities. He starts to think about her more and more, and begins trying to figure out a way that he can spend time with her alone.

Or maybe it is a wife who is very artistic, but her husband has no interest in her work. She has a group of artsy friends who she likes hanging out with. A handsome man joins the group and his artistic ability is incredible. She is impressed by both his looks and his skills.

The pair begins to bond over their shared love of certain famous artists and begin to meet up so they can work together on different projects. The wife starts to work her schedule around the man so that they can spend more time together. She also begins to take longer to get ready for when she meets him because she wants to look good for him.

Identifying Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs always develop outside of the spouse’s awareness. They increase gradually and become more dangerous over time, as bit by bit the two people grow closer.

It is worth thinking regularly about any people you might know who meet a need in your life that is not being met by your own spouse. If you realize you have been engaging in an emotional affair, don’t beat yourself up.

It is, however, time to deal with it by being open and honest with your spouse. Don’t rush in and accuse your spouse of neglecting your needs, but think carefully about how they are feeling, and be cautious with your words.

In a marriage, very little is ever beyond repair. Yes, you might have got a bit lost along the way, but with the right help, you can get things back on track.

How To Re-Engage With Your Spouse

Re-engaging with your spouse is an absolutely essential part of recovering from an emotional affair. This can be difficult if the affair has been going on for some time behind the spouse’s back. You must both be willing to work on engaging with each other once again.

If you are both committed to fixing your marriage, here are some key steps you can take:

Get Into Counseling

Marital disconnection is often deeply rooted in past trauma. In order to identify the triggers for the emotional affair in a safe and secure environment, it is worth getting some counseling. This will give both parties a chance to voice their frustrations and concerns with a trained therapist who can help decipher exactly what is going on.

Set Healthy Boundaries

After being married for a while, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of feeling as if you never get your own way. Both partners should be allowed to say “No” in any given situation without a massive relational fallout.

When disagreements do arise, it is important not to engage in knee-jerk reactions that only serve to heighten emotions and bring about more strife. Setting personal boundaries in terms of individual decision-making is absolutely essential, and these must be respected at all times.

Ask For Needs To Be Met, But Be Able to Hear “No”

Related to the last point, a healthy marriage is one in which either partner is allowed to ask for their needs to be met, but is also allowed to say “No.” This may be a crucial element in protecting your sex life. If you say “I think we should have sex,” and your partner responds “No, I don’t want to right now.” That should be taken as a final answer and you should not push it any further.

By allowing each other to express how you feel, you are showing honor to each other as respected adults, and are ridding your marriage of coercion and unhealthy power dynamics. You must always seek to work toward a mutually-respectful relationship where you are both fully listened to, steering clear of the parent-child relationship in your marriage.

Work On Pairing Action With Emotion

Reintroduce some emotion into your marriage. If you are leaving for work, don’t just slam the door without as much as a wave goodbye. Leave a few minutes spare to hold your spouse, to tell them how much you love them, and to kiss them properly.

Try and get off autopilot when it comes to showing affection. Be sacrificial with your time and spend it willingly to reconnect with your spouse in a physical way.

Engage in Healthy Dating Behaviors

Make a list of places you want to visit, restaurants you want to have dinner at, or walks you want to take together. Go on some dates! Reconnect in a romantic setting. Compliment your spouse when they have made an effort to look nice for you. Buy flowers, take them on surprise trips, and just make them feel special!

Find Your Spiritual Practices As A Couple

Find a way of connecting with God as a couple. Be creative and wise in this. For example, if you both struggle to stay awake after getting into bed, scrap the bedtime Bible and prayer time. Agree to get up an hour earlier and do it first thing in the morning. Go to Church together, hang out with Christian friends in the community and spur each other on in your faith.

Put Your Spouse First

Prefer your spouse over others. If your friends ask you to come and hang out with them, check with your spouse before saying yes. See if your spouse wants to do something that evening, and let them know that they take priority over anyone else. Similarly, if you sense your spouse could do with a bit of time on their own, make it clear that you are totally okay with this.

Stay Alert, Protect Yourself From An Affair

Keep your eyes open to any possible threats to your marriage. Perhaps an attractive man or woman has just joined your small group, and you find your eyes lingering on them for a moment too long.

Catch it early. Let your spouse know of any potential snares and figure out ways to combat them. If you are highly attracted to someone, be wise and don’t hang out with them on your own, no matter how plausible you deem the reason to be.

If you are worried that someone may have taken a personal liking to you at work, talk to them about your spouse in a positive light – this will kill any potential emotional affair!

Be tuned in to your emotional state when you are around people. If you feel a fluttering of the stomach when you see someone who isn’t your spouse, take note of that and be sure to avoid spending too much time with this person.

These are just a few tips and tools for reconnecting with your spouse and protecting yourself against an emotional affair. Remember why you married your spouse, keep your wedding vows close to your heart and mind and be bold in tackling the difficult things of marriage together as a couple that is united under the protection of God.

Photos:
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Pre-marital Counseling Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

According to Scripture, marriage is the very first human relationship created by God. Jesus spoke of marriage according to the Old Testament as being one man and one woman united into one flesh. The Apostle Paul exhorted husbands and wives to love, respect, and submit to one another, doing so in reverence to Christ.

The Bible places much emphasis on the institution of marriage as the fundamental relationship in a household. Choosing to enter into this union is both an exciting and sobering time of life.

Pre-Marital Counseling Questions

This article considers several important pre-marital counseling questions that can be asked to give due consideration to the life-changing step you’re about to take by getting married.

These pre-marital counseling questions can be addressed in premarital counseling to help process some of the most important issues related to the decision to get married.

Always remember that two of the most vital considerations in the decision to get married are emotional and spiritual compatibility.

Is this God’s Calling for Me?

Not everyone is destined for marriage. This lifelong commitment comes with responsibilities, privileges, and inherent limitations. Am I truly called to this for life? Can I commit to oneness with my spouse in a partnership that includes physical, emotional, and spiritual components?

Does the future look bright when I consider the two of us moving forward together? Is this person someone I can submit to in the way Scripture discusses, deferring my preferences and making sacrifices for them?

Do Our Personalities Mesh Well?

Do we have complementary personalities, and do we accept each other as we are? Is being around this person enjoyable, and do I find them likable at a basic level? Do we understand each other’s senses of humor?

Also, consider whether you feel emotionally safe enough to be vulnerable with your partner, to speak even unpleasant truths in love. Consider whether you both have the freedom to confront one another in love.

Physical attraction must be considered as well, along with your baseline of common interests and hobbies, and how well you can share a workload together.

What Are We Bringing into Marriage?

The past must be considered in light of how it will affect your future marriage relationship. (See Exodus 20:5-6.) Habitual sins that have not been repented of, or emotional healing that has not taken place, can lead to a repetition of harmful patterns.

Consider the wounds, losses, ways of reacting to the world around you, besetting sins, and expectations that you bring to the relationship. Think about how you and your partner have worked through (or have not worked through) any current issues or past realities. It’s also vital to discuss your families of origin and backgrounds and how they will affect your marriage.

How Do We Communicate?

Are we able to understand and communicate with each other well (James 1:19-20)? When conflict arises, or hurt feelings happen, how do we resolve those things (Ephesians 4:26)?

Are We Spiritually Compatible?

Are we partners in our belief systems? When it comes to my relationship with God, how does this person affect that? Do I feel encouraged to become closer to God, or is it viewed as something incidental or unimportant? Do we pray together and encourage each other to put God first? Do we inspire one another to grow in our faith?

Do We Agree Financially?

Have we discussed our beliefs about managing finances and budgeting (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17)? How will we merge our finances and manage our spending vs. saving habits?

What Do Others Think?

Do our families, friends, and/or church families affirm our relationship and decision to marry (Ephesians 4:15)? Do we have a support system in place?

Are We Emotionally Mature Enough for Marriage?

Do we display personal and individual emotional maturity (Galatians 5:22-23)? Can we both self-regulate our feelings? Do I view myself as responsible for my own emotions and struggles, and does my partner?

Are we honest and transparent with one another? Do I truly trust this person based on what they’ve done to earn that trust? Do they keep their word and tell the truth? Do either of us struggle with an addiction to anything? If we’ve had these struggles in the past, have we sought help and healing in a way that has allowed for restoration and growth?

Christian Counseling to Prepare for Marriage

If you would like a helpful structure in which to navigate these premarital issues, consider whether Christian counseling might be a valuable resource for you and your future spouse. A Christian counselor shares a similar worldview and value system and is a licensed professional who can guide you through these pre-marital counseling questions and help you discern your readiness for marriage.

Photos
“Engaged”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Hopes and Dreams”, Courtesy of Edward Cisneros, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License; “God-centered Marriage”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License