Save Your Marriage: Four Practical Tips to Strengthen Your Bond

Without question, marriage is hard. Of course, ideally, you will have many times of joy, fun, and fulfillment. But you will also go through seasons of pain, turmoil, frustration, and strife. When these times inevitably come, you need to make sure you are ready and willing to tackle the issues at hand.

Part of this effort can be to seek professional help that will help you decipher the key issues in your relationship, and will assist you in rebuilding your marriage into all that God intends for it to be. Fight to save your marriage — it’s worth it.

Nowadays, marriage is seen as nothing more than a commodity; something that can be thrown away with ease. As Christians, we must seek to battle against the soaring rates of divorce and must desire to uphold this wonderful, God-given gift with all that we have.

Practical Tips to Save Your Marriage

Tip #1: Make sure love is more than a feeling

At the beginning of the relationship, love is often felt in a powerful and exhilarating way. The Greeks recognized this kind of love and called it “eros.” A physical attraction combined with outward personality qualities sets off a spark of feelings as two people come together.

In his book, Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix puts forward the argument that people are attracted to those who have the outward qualities that represent someone who will meet all their unmet love needs. He also adds that we are prone to picking someone who has some of the negative qualities of those we love (often parents) in the hope that we can learn how to get love from a person who may be deficient in loving us as we want.

Hendrix theorizes that the attraction to overtly negative qualities is largely subconscious and has more to do with an innate desire for the wholeness that we may have experienced in our mother’s womb.

Time, however, is the great leveler. Marriage doesn’t always stay super exciting and fresh, and love tends to fade as we realize that not only is our spouse unable to meet all our needs, but they will also sometimes be a source of frustration to us.

Another Greek word for love is “agape.” This love is a pure and selfless love that gives itself away whether or not the love is reciprocated. This type of love is often associated with God – indeed, we see it attested to in the Scriptures.

In Matthew 16:18, we see this type of love in action between Jesus and Peter. Jesus gives him the name “Rock” prior to him becoming worthy of such a title. Still, Jesus had confidence in this man, as he knew he would be a rock of the church once he had experienced the full extent of God’s love through His sacrifice.

This is a fantastic model and message to apply to your marriage. Sacrificial love is about always believing the best for your partner, and loving them through their failures.

Don’t seek to focus on the weakest parts of your spouse, but instead commit yourself to building them up and encouraging them in their gifts and pursuits. Always show them grace, knowing that you are not perfect either! This must be done out of a deep understanding of the grace that God shows to us every single day. A belief in sacrificial and selfless love can only help your marriage.

Tip #2: Deal with your desires

Couples therapist, John Gottman, describes how marriages fail through what he coins the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

The common theme among all of these damaging behaviors is that they focus solely on keeping marital issues far from the emotional part of our inner-being. They are all defense mechanisms that fail to deal with the root issues.

In James 4:1-4, we read about a much deeper approach to solving relational conflicts. James explains how the root of all conflict is a frustrated relational desire due to one or both people refusing to nurture a healthy relationship with God.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” – James 4:1

Often, fighting is simply a result of one partner just naming what they really want. This passage teaches us to submit our desires to God first and foremost.

This process helps us to take ownership of our issues instead of constantly putting them on other people. We must have faith in God to meet our needs. If we interact with our spouse out of a place of ultimate trust in the Lord, our discussions and disagreements will become much healthier.

We must always turn to God and let him fill up where we are lacking. We cannot constantly look to our spouses for this – that would be too much to expect. They are going to get it wrong much of the time. Of course, we can improve our behavior toward one another, but we are going to mess up. When we do, will we seek to trust in the Lord’s love, or will we go on the attack against our partner? We must pray at all times, harboring a passion for the Lord and asking for more of his grace when dealing with our marital issues.

Tip #3: Put your marriage first, second only to God

Marriage is a God-ordained ordinance. The Lord expects us to put everything into upholding and respecting this holy covenant and union with another person.

If you want to build a firm foundation in your marriage, you must learn to honor and commit yourself to loving your spouse unconditionally. Intimacy in marriage is critical. Set time aside to connect with your spouse on a deep physical and spiritual level.

Life is crazy busy. Work commitments, kids, financial concerns – there is a lot to deal with. Marriages can begin to resemble something of a business arrangement – a way of simply getting things done.

Kids can also become a distraction, or even a focal point for the discontented spouse to pour themselves into. When children come along, be careful not to neglect your marriage.

Take good care of your kids, show them love and spend quality time with them, but don’t forget about your husband or wife! When the kids have all left home, you don’t want to discover that the intimacy in your marriage has been left stagnant and subsequently died out. So, how can you make your marriages a priority?

Here are a few more practical tips to help save your marriage:

  • Pray together daily
  • Regularly share what you’re learning in your spiritual walk together
  • Encourage your partner more than you criticize them
  • Seek out opportunities to build confidence in your spouse, help them deal with insecurity
  • Talk every day and plan regular date nights
  • Read books and take advice regarding how to improve your marriage
  • Discover a recreational activity that you both like doing together
  • Stay far away from adultery!

If your marriage is struggling for air and nothing seems to be improving despite your best efforts, it may be time to seek professional help.

Tip #4: Be the change you want to see in your marriage

It is easy for unhealthy patterns of behavior to become embedded within your marriage. When you are married, your shortcomings no longer go unnoticed. They affect the other person, and may even have a damaging consequence on your relationship. For example, a husband may be very self-absorbed and focused on their own needs, leaving their wife feeling abandoned and alone.

Over time, the wife will begin to feel disrespected, disengaged and unhappy. When this happens, marital dysfunction reaches a new level, and you really are in a relational danger zone.

Depression may come, anger and frustration may be exhibited, and the idea of splitting up may be considered. The crucial issue becomes, “How do I change a dysfunctional pattern that has built up in my marriage?”

There are ways of fixing it. First, you must take responsibility for your actions and refuse to blame everything on the other person. If you are acting selfishly, you can change this. Sure, there may be elements of this behavior that are caused by your spouse’s behavior, but you cannot lump it all upon their shoulders. That is not fair. You must own your shortcomings. In all of this, you must both seek to be honest and open in dealing with your issues.

Second, both partners should seek to respect each other and must aim to show each other grace as they push forward in dealing with their marital issues. If there is an imbalance in the relationship, or if one side feels unjustifiably grieved, it may be time to seek out professional help.

How Christian Counseling Can Help Save Your Marriage

As Christians, it is important to know that there is always hope for your marriage. With the right professional help, we must always have faith that the Lord can save our relationships. Indeed, marriage is a beautiful reflection of God’s gracious love for us, and it is highly valued by the Lord himself. You must keep this firmly in mind as you go about working on your marital issues – God is fighting for both of you!

Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.” Bringing a neutral and professionally trained third party into your marriage can help relieve tension and will provide you with essential insights into the dysfunctional patterns that have developed in your relationship over time.

With the guiding hand of God, a trained Christian therapist will be able to help you save your marriage and move forward with your spouse into a refreshed season of love, joy, and marital fulfillment.

“Trouble”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao,; CC0 License; “Agape”, Courtesy of Alex Ronsdorf,; CC0 License; “God-centered Marriage”, Courtesy of Ben White,; CC0 License; “Resignation”, courtesy of Alexander Mils,; CC0 License

Top Three Excuses for Having an Affair – and How to Deal with Them

References “Intimate Allies” by Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III and “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller

Marriage is about integrity. As a covenant first and foremost with God, one should keep that promise despite their spouse’s shortcomings. Marriage should be a journey about the husband or wife that you would like to become with God’s help. This journey should not be disrupted just because of dissatisfaction with your spouse.

Three (Sinful) Excuses for Having an Affair

Here are the top three excuses people give for having an affair:

1. My spouse let him or herself go.

Some people believe that the person that they married should generally continue to be the same throughout married life. They rationalize that if they knew that their spouse would end up becoming a lazy slouch or balloon into somebody physically different then they would not have gotten married.

But why do people decide to “let themselves go” in the first place? For many husbands and wives, this occurs because they feel underappreciated and so they are no longer willing to make the effort to look and act the way they did when they were still dating.

In many cases, it is a passive-aggressive move to show that they are unhappy with their partner. The end result is that the other feels that they are being driven away or they believe that they have made the wrong choice, so they search for someone more “ideal,” leading to that person having an affair.

2. I haven’t felt this way in years.

Blame it on Hollywood or people’s obsession with romantic love, but many today wrongly believe that true love should always mean having butterflies in your stomach whenever you see your loved one.

Sadly, this feeling does not last and neither do the romantic dates as couples, particularly married couples, choose to prioritize practicality over needless spending to impress.

This is why when a disgruntled spouse meets somebody new and those romantic feelings are stirred up again, they believe that perhaps they have truly found the one meant for them. Happy fantasies of finding their “soul mate” are brought to the forefront and they drift further and further away from their spouse and into the arms of another.

3. I don’t love them anymore.

Emotions are fickle. One minute you are on cloud nine and another you are down in the dumps. This is particularly true in romantic relationships that are not centered on God.

Once the romantic feelings have ebbed away and the annoyances begin to pile up, it is very easy for people to feel that the love is gone. The spouse’s passive-aggressive behavior (or even outright aggressive behavior) simply reinforces the fact that the love has disappeared, making the person open to outside temptations.

And that is often how adultery begins as that “other person” sympathizes with the pain and disappointment that may be going on in the now fragmenting marriage. As the two become closer emotionally, then the adulterous relationship begins.

What should be done? Choose to love them still

The abovementioned reasons to cheat seem reasonable in the heat of the moment. But when looked at from afar, they are weak excuses. While physical appearances are part of attraction, a strong marital relationship is much more than that.

We will all age regardless of how much we try to take care of ourselves so a couple’s love should be based on a stronger foundation than that. Spouses, however, should still do their best to look good for one another as they did during their engagement period. But it should not be the final basis for love.

As for romantic infatuation, it is a short-lived feeling. In fact, researchers have proven that such a feeling can only last for around two years. After that, romantic feelings fade and all that is left is a broken marriage and a sinful and doomed adulterous one.

And while it would be great to always feel like you are in love, in marriage, what is most important is that we fulfill our covenant to God and choose to love our spouse through thick and thin. It is this commitment to God and to one’s spouse that strengthens the bonds of marriage until such time that the two truly become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

In his book, Timothy Keller shares, “You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” (Keller 104)

Christian Counseling after Having an Affair

Having an affair is a direct violation of God’s commands (Exodus 20:14, Ephesians 5:25). Aside from the damaging effects on the spouse, children and other people around, the adulterers hurt their relationship with God as they pretend that He is not watching or they wrongly imagine that He actually approves of such forbidden love.

As Allender and Longman III state, “Adultery is like the worship of false gods. It allows for the passion that God intended without bowing the knee to the one whom we were called to love. Adultery is not merely sex with the wrong person; it is union with someone who will never require us to face our sinfulness or draw forth out glory so that we are more and more in awe of God. It is intimacy without commitment, flight from the struggle of intimacy without ever facing our part in the loss.” (Allender, Longman III 308-309)

Should a spouse be tempted to find someone new or should a marriage be on the rocks, then Christian counseling can help to repair what is seemingly broken. A professional Christian counselor can help both spouses to air out their grievances in a safe, neutral environment where no one is judged. The goal is not to find out who is wrong but to figure out how to make things right.

If you or someone you know is currently having an affair or tempted to run from married life, seek help soon. As creations of God made in His image, we are all meant to glorify Him in all that we do, including how family life is handled here on Earth. It truly matters to Him that spouses are doing all that they can to make their marriage work.

“Faded Beauty”, Courtesy of Silvestri Matteo,, CC0 License; “Ecstasy”, Courtesy of Allef Vinicius,; CC0 License; “Indifference”, Courtesy of Jassir Jonis,; CC0 License; “Loving”, Courtesy of Phuoc Le,; CC0 License

3 Simple Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home

Getting marriage counseling isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you’re willing to invest in your marriage with the goals of achieving growth and a change for the better. Counseling allows for the pursuit of relational growth in a supportive context and a healthy structure for conversation.

Counseling offers a couple the chance to learn about each other’s thought life, personal history, and emotional worlds. It can give you tools and strategies for relating to one another, allowing you to forge a deeper connection, and opening both of you up to how the Lord might bring healing and direction into your marriage.

Counseling that takes place in a vacuum isn’t enough, however. There has to be a commitment to carry out what you’ve learned and to acton your new perspectives. This process is often encouraged by the use of “homework,” which is meant to help couples create new, healthier habits to foster intimacy.

3 Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home

Here are three couples counseling techniques that can be used as “homework” to help couples stay consistent with what they’ve learned in counseling sessions:

1) Emotional check-ins

The bond between spouses grows stronger when each offers the other focused attention. When we feel that someone is intentionally focusing on us, honing in on our feelings and wanting to communicate with us, we recognize that attention as love.

For focused attention to happen regularly, a structured habit should be formedof setting aside a particular time to focus on your spouse’s inner world and emotional state. The goal is for each spouse to feel heard and understood, leading to emotional closeness. These intentional moments can be referred to as emotional check-ins, heart check-ins, or connection times.

Couples should schedule uninterrupted time to talk and listen to each other from their hearts. This should be at a specified time and place, with a time limit (20-30 minutes is a good amount to start with), and each, in turn, should have a chance to share their current emotions and any relational needs.

One spouse should communicate his or her emotional condition, and the role of the other spouse is simply to listen well, interrupting only to clarify or mirror back what they’ve heard. Sometimes, a word list of feelings can help in communicating one’s emotional state at this point.

When the first spouse is finished, the other spouse should reflect back what they’ve heard and ask, “Is there anything you need from me regarding those feelings?”

This gives the spouse who has shared a chance to express his or her felt needs in the relationship. This allows each to consider and be aware of their own needs, as well as empathizing with their spouse’s emotions and desires, allowing both to feel loved, understood, and emotionally close.

2) Time-outs

In many relationships, one of the main goals of therapy is to teach healthy emotional self-regulation, including practices that can be used for self-soothing. The time-out tool is one such practice that is learned in the therapeutic settingbut is established outside that setting.

Sometimes during emotional check-ins or in the course of everyday life, one or both spouses may become frustrated. This is the time couples need a tool to de-escalate the situation and be able to clearly see the source of the frustration.

The practice of time-out can be used to de-escalate and gain clarity in a conflict situation. A time-out requires an agreed-upon decision to seek physical distance for the purpose of cooling down, but it implies the reassurance that the marriage and the discussion are still priorities.

This reassurance should take the form of a promise to come back and finish the conversation at a specified time. Used the right way, this tool can be highly beneficial for both spouses.

The best time to use a time-out is right when you notice a conversation beginning to take a turn for the worse. This way, hurtful interactions can be minimizedor avoided altogether. Time-outs are meant to build trust between spouses. This happens in two ways.

The first way time-outs build trust is that each spouse takes ownership of his or her own frustration or anger, and seeks de-escalation in a healthy and non-destructive way. The second way is by a spouse keeping his or her word to return to the conversation at the promised time.

The goal of time-outs is to teach healthy emotional regulation, foster emotional intimacy, and reassure each spouse of their importance to the other. The more often a time-out is initiated, the more beneficial this tool can be to a marriage.

3) Praying together

For couples who want to forge a deeper spiritual bond, the practice of praying together for each other and about their marriage can be a powerful homework assignment.

Prayer and humility are inextricably intertwined since prayer is simply crying out to God for help. Throughout the Bible, God calls believers to prayer, yet due to our pride, feelings of inadequacy, and even spiritual opposition, we often have difficulty with this discipline, especially in the presence of our spouse. However, typically, couples who pray together do tend to stay together.

The above are three examples of assignments often given to Christian couples in counseling sessions. These assignments are, of course, voluntary, and their effectiveness depends on the willingness of each spouse to commit to them.

If you and your spouse are interested in improving your marriage with couples counseling, please contact a counselor today.

“Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography,, CC0 License; “Eye contact,” courtesy of Jeremy Wong,, CC0 License; “Bench,” courtesy of Elvert Barnes, FCC (CC BY 2.0); “Fervent prayer,” courtesy of Ben White,, CC0 License

Pre-Marriage Counseling Topics to Address Before You Tie the Knot

So you’re engaged; now what? Planning and preparing for your marriage (not just your wedding!) is the next step. Although you might find yourself caught up in the excitement and stress of getting ready for your big day, it’s important not to neglect the relational preparation you need to work through with your future spouse.

It’s vital to talk about the beliefs, expectations, and realities that will have an impact on your marriage long after the wedding is over.

Engagement is a time of joy and anticipation, but it can also bring out stress and conflict as plans get underway. So much energy can go into details related to the wedding that a pattern of neglect can form with regard to the relationship itself.

Premarital counseling is a good way to maintain intimacy throughout your engagement. It can help strengthen your relationship and facilitate constructive conversations and intentional preparation for the future.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Topics to Increase Intimacy

Discussing specific marriage-related topics can help you as a couple navigate the transition into marriage in a healthy way. Here are four examples:

1. Communication

Couples who struggle with communication may fear to seek counseling because it might compel them to talk about painful topics. But counseling can be a safe place to work on having open communication between the two of you. It’s a neutral, confidential setting to explore subjects that need discussion, as well as how each of you naturally tends to communicate.

We all have an instinctive communication style we prefer, based on our personalities and the way our parents and family of origin related to one another. We might think that our own communication style is what’s normal for everyone, but it can be shocking to find out that our spouse essentially speaks a different language than we do, and that’s considered “normal” to them.

Because of this, spouses often misunderstand and misinterpret one another just because of their different ways of communicating. There is much room for growth in intentionally learning how your partner communicates and how to speak their language. You can talk about certain phrases you each tend to use and what you mean by them.

Couples often think that their spouse should be able to automatically understand what they’re thinking or feeling. After all, they know each other so well, right? But this just isn’t the case.

We may develop an understanding of our spouse’s patterns over time, but no matter how long we are married, we will never be able to “just know” what another person is thinking or feeling unless they tell us explicitly. Otherwise, incorrect assumptions are inevitable.

When you don’t feel understood by your spouse, you’re much more likely to have communication problems or hurt feelings. As time goes by in your marriage, you’ll grow to understand each other better, but even then be sure to give each other grace for not being mind-readers.

The potential for hurt is actually greater when you feel as though your partner should understand you because of how long you’ve been married or how close you are to each other.

So engagement is the perfect time to start laying a foundation for healthy communication. Learn how to communicate your thoughts and emotions clearly and respectfully. Create habits of open communication, letting your partner know what’s going on with you, without assuming that they already understand.

Creating these communication patterns early on in your relationship gives you practice in handling conflict in a way that is mutually beneficial. Encourage each other and alert yourselves to potential communication breakdowns, especially those based on possibly false assumptions about the other person. Patterns of communication formed over a lifetime are difficult to break, so now is the time to adjust your habits of interaction.

2. Sexuality

In Christian environments, it may seem taboo to mention sexuality, but it’s vital to cover in premarital counseling. Sexuality is about more than the act itself; it’s a powerful instrument of connection between married couples, allowing physical and emotional intimacy to flourish.

Engaged couples often feel that they can skim over the topic of sexuality and that their sexual relationship within marriage will be effortlessly good, but this isn’t always the case.

Each future spouse has expectations, concerns, and questions related to marital intimacy, and premarital counseling is one of the best places to discuss these things. You can reflect on where your assumptions about sex developed (family, friends, education, etc.) and what expectations you’re bringing in to your marriage.

It’s important to discuss how you will cultivate your sexual relationship within marriage, along with any concerns or curiosities you may be bringing into it. Depending on your comfort level, set some intentional time aside to discuss physical intimacy and how it will progress after your wedding day.

Don’t forget to discuss the practical matters too. What about birth control? How will this affect your relationship and any future plans to have children? Also, consider privacy and how it will be to live together if you have not already cohabitated. It can be quite an adjustment going from having your own space, even with your family of origin or a roommate, to sharing everything with a spouse.

As a couple, what can you talk about now that will make these adjustments easier? How much privacy do you each prefer? Contrary to expectations for a perfect Hollywood-esque relationship, real marriage can be hard, and busy schedules can make it difficult to carve out time for a spontaneous, exciting love life. Although it may seem less romantic, it’s often important to be very intentional in setting aside time for physical intimacy.

 3. Inner World

This is an opportunity to discuss your desire for your spouse to know and understand you deeply. Although you probably have this desire, it can also be frightening to be known this closely. In order to be close and increase intimacy, vulnerability is required. You have to let your spouse in.

A way to start doing this to explore each other’s inner world. This means getting to know your partner’s hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, fears, and anything related to their preferences and desires.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman have described this process as creating “love maps.” Dr. John Gottman’s research has indicated that couples whose love maps are detailed tend to have stronger and more intimate relationships than those with less developed love maps.

This process of getting to know one another’s inner worlds is an ongoing activity that should characterize your marriage over the course of your lives. In the same way that a city changes over time, with new construction and expansions, our inner worlds do the same.

It takes work to get to know your spouse’s deepest desires, dreams, and fears, and when you do this, you’re creating your “love map” of their inner world. Love maps increase intimacy, because not only are you getting to know your spouse better, you’re investing time and value into the process.

Intentionally seeking greater intimate knowledge of your spouse should be at times that are relaxed, when both partners feel safe and comfortable (i.e., not during a conflict) and able to absorb what the other person is sharing. It’s a good addition to a date night. You can make it more structured by taking turns asking each other questions and discussing memories, struggles, joys, hopes, fears, and dreams.

Inner worlds are complex, layered, and only reveal themselves with time and effort. Life changes shape the details of our inner worlds. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman says, “If you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your marriage to lose its way when your lives shift so suddenly and dramatically.”

For this reason, it’s best to create the habit of getting to know each other’s inner worlds early on in your relationship. Then you will have the tools to learn new things about your spouse throughout your marriage, which you can add to your “love map” of them.

4. Conflict Management

For some people, talking about conflict might seem counterintuitive. Oftentimes couples have the idea that the less conflict, the better; if they just got rid of conflict altogether, they would have a much better relationship.

But this isn’t the case. Conflict isn’t a bad thing that should be avoided at all costs. Instead, it’s an inevitable aspect of every human relationship, and handling it in a healthy way offers a key opportunity for genuine intimacy.

Conflict is unavoidable at some level, but the way you achieve intimacy through conflict lies in how you deal with it. Equipping yourselves with healthy conflict management skills gives you a chance to resolve issues without hurting each other emotionally. This way you can learn to understand your spouse in a deeper way, without leaving scars from hurtful conflict.

If there is a topic you know is likely to cause conflict, learning how to approach it without being on the defensive is an invaluable skill. Conflict does not have to turn into an ugly argument or be avoided altogether; instead, it can be resolved in a healthy way, and this knowledge can make each partner in the relationship feel more hopeful and confident when approaching difficult topics.

A willingness to examine current conflict patterns in your relationship is a helpful first step. You can identify any patterns that are destructive and that serve to escalate disagreements rather than settling them.

Once you’ve identified these patterns, you both can work on changing them to more constructive ways of dealing with the situation, allowing you to resolve disagreements in a way that allows for growth and intimacy.

A Christian Pre-Marriage Counseling Perspective

A Christian counselor can help facilitate these conversations, leading to the best outcome for both of you as you work toward greater intimacy. Depending on which topics you’re discussing, a counselor may give you extra materials, education, or practical exercises to work on the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship.

Every relationship has both strong points and areas where growth is needed, and addressing these points early on will allow you to build a strong foundation of intimacy.

One of the main objectives of premarital counseling is for the counselor to help you discover the preconceived notions and expectations you each bring to the intended marriage. This is a way for couples to get to know one another and possibly grow closer than they have been before.

Vulnerability opens the door to intimacy, allowing a beautiful chance for growth and flourishing. God’s desire is for married couples to experience oneness and openness through being intimate with one another.

This sacred unity develops over a lifetime, as both learn to submit to one another and to Christ. He uses this journey to transform us to be more like Him, which is part of His intended purpose in creating marriage.

Please remember that no couple is going to master and flawlessly implement perfect communication skills, love maps, or conflict resolution, especially before the wedding has even taken place.

Premarital counseling is simply a place to begin, and to give you knowledge and tools to help you with the transition into marriage. It allows you to be more aware of patterns in your relationship and the tools you’ll need for growth both now and in the future.

But growth always takes time, and it’s very normal for a marriage to take at least a year to settle into a comfortable harmony and flow.  Marriage is a constantly-changing, ever-evolving journey of growing in intimacy, communication, and love.

The premarital counselor is simply a facilitator of discussions that will hopefully continue throughout your marriage as you resolve conflicts, get to know each other’s inner worlds and build a stronger relationship.

If you are engaged or planning to be soon, and you think premarital counseling could be beneficial for your relationship, let us know how we can work with you to prepare you for a godly marriage.

“Engaged”, Courtesy of Ben White,; CC0 License; “Conversation”, courtesy of Christin Hume,; CC0 License; “Hopes and Dreams”, Courtesy of Edward Cisneros,; CC0 License; “Lightning”, Courtesy of Casey Horner,; CC0 License

What is Codependency? 12 Common Signs of Codependent Relationships

What is codependency? Codependency is common and most people struggle with it to some degree. If you find yourself constantly sacrificing for others, setting your needs to the side, and always seeking to fix the person or present problem you might be struggling with codependent tendencies. The inability to feel whole just as you are requires you to look for that feeling somewhere else.

The “need to be needed” fuel’s the life of a codependent. In the book, Codependence: Healing the Human Condition, Charles L. Whitfield calls codependence a “disease of lost selfhood.”

He says that we become codependent when we turn our responsibility for ourselves over to someone else. We lose sight of who we are and what we want because of our attempts to be what others want us to be.

We learn how to relate to others through our family of origin and so our childhood might give clues as to how our codependency began. For example, children in alcoholic families learn to avoid emotions and to define themselves through others.

If a child was forced to take care of a drug-addicted parent, this could develop into adult codependency.  “Codependent No More” author, Melody Beattie, identifies characteristics of codependents.

Here we will examine twelve of those characteristics.

12 Signs of Codependency

1. Desire to Fix

Codependents love to help. This is most often the case because they believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Codependents need to feel needed. If they aren’t fixing a person or situation, then their identity feels unstable and emptiness sets in. The codependent person always wants to be the one to handle every crisis.

2. Self-Sacrificing

They often overcommit themselves and will neglect their own needs to meet someone else’s needs. Their partner’s happiness is their responsibility. This tendency often makes codependents targets for people with narcissistic personalities.

They struggle to say no when someone asks for something. A codependent person can look like a hero to others, but in truth, their help is motivated by unhealthy impulses.  Codependents are the types that need to be reminded to put their own airplane mask on before helping the person in the seat next to them.

3. Poor Boundaries

People struggling with codependency also struggle with boundaries. As a child, perhaps generational boundaries were blended, and you had to take on the role of a parent. Weak or nonexistent boundaries can form for a variety of reasons, but setting and maintaining firm boundaries is critical to teaching others to respect you.

They provide a sort of “force field” that prevents the kind of emotional abuse that can happen in close (though dysfunctional) relationships. Boundaries tell people how to treat us.  If there aren’t any boundaries, codependents risk becoming a doormat.  By setting and respecting healthy boundaries, you can retrain your relationships.

4. Unhealthy attachments

Codependents are constantly seeking approval, yet recoil at the thought of rejection. They are unable to find personal satisfaction and crave being attached to someone for their happiness.

Codependents stay in abusive relationships because they believe either that the other person will change or is the only one that will love them. Codependents can become obsessed with being with a friend or partner.

5. Fluctuating self-worth

Codependents lack confidence in themselves. They have a sense that they are not worthy and nothing that they ever do is good enough. They long for compliments, but when they get them, they reject them because they think them untrue. Their self-worth is similar to a yo-yo as it bounces up and down and hinges on what the important people in their life say about them.

6. Repression

Codependents are often rigid and controlled. They are often afraid to be who they really are for fear of being judged. Codependents usually learn at an early age to repress their emotions.

7. Obsession

Codependents worry about everything and everybody to the point of obsession. They become enmeshed with others and are often anxious about other’s problems. They focus all their energy on someone else as a result of their deeply ingrained dependency.  Often, they can’t let go of a relationship because of their obsession with that person.

8. Controlling

Codependency often forms after growing up in an uncontrollable environment, possibly with an alcoholic or emotionally absent parent. Codependents have a habit of manipulating people by using guilt, helplessness or even extreme kindness. It’s important for the codependent to feel in control.  They believe they can change someone and that changing them will make them happy.

9. Denial

Codependents smile in faux agreement with a friend. They pretend that things aren’t as bad as they seem or make excuses for a loved one’s behavior.  They bury themselves in work and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

10. Dysfunctional communication

Codependents often don’t communicate properly. They find it difficult to communicate their own thoughts, feelings, and needs because they don’t know them. They often wait to express their opinions until they know what other people are thinking. They try to say what will please people or what will get others to do what they want. They don’t say what they mean or mean what they say.

11. Lack of trust

Codependents lack trust in themselves and others. This is usually seen when trust was damaged at an early age in life and has never been truly recovered. They doubt their feelings and decisions. They think that God has abandoned them and they can lose their faith in God.

12. Anger

Codependents are often filled with suppressed anger that they don’t know how to manage effectively. When people don’t do what codependents want, they feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and powerless.

Codependents often feel afraid, hurt, and angry, and they often live with others who are the same way. They cry regularly, get depressed, overreact, get sick, and have violent temper outbursts. They often punish others for making them feel angry.

Codependency usually stems from experiences that occurred in childhood that have bled over into adult life. Treatment consists of exploring some of those childhood memories and looking at current codependent behavior patterns.

If you have identified with any of the signs listed above and want to delve more into those problem areas, consider reaching out to a Christian counselor today. Choosing the right counselor can make all the difference on your road to recovery.

“Bondage”, Courtesy of Josh Johnson,, CC0 License; “Do More”, Courtesy of Carl Heyerdahl,, CC0 License; “Worry”, Courtesy of Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes,, CC0 License; “Distrust”, Courtesy of Joshua Rawson Harris,, CC0 License

Rediscovering God’s View of Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Differentiation and Christian Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Christian Marriage Counseling Can Help You Differentiate

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

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

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

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

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

“Out for a Walk,” courtesy of Vladimir Kudinov,, CC0 License; “Reconciled,” courtesy of Priscilla du Preez,, CC0 License; “Committed,” courtesy of,, CC0 License; “Field gazing,” courtesy of,, CC0 License 

How to Deal with Conflict in Marriage

When quarreling with your spouse, it’s difficult to remember any rules or courtesies about how to argue reasonably. Your emotions are taking over, and there isn’t time to think rationally. Entering a disagreement level-headed is nice in theory, but much easier said than done.

Dr. Susan Johnson says that telling couples they should follow certain rules during a fight will just set them up to fail. Instead, she offers the advice to try limiting the hurt caused during the argument, and lovingly make amends afterward.

Myths about Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

Below are three well-known myths about dealing with conflict in marriage, followed by more practical ways to handle issues.

Myth #1: Just Stay Calm

The whole reason you are fighting in the first place is because you aren’t feeling calm. Something is obviously upsetting you enough to bring it up and hash it out. During a disagreement, there are usually two levels of conflict going on. The first level is the topic you are actually fighting about (i.e., a broken promise, laundry that wasn’t done). The second level is how this disappointment makes you feel and what it means for your relationship. Something as simple as the trash not being taken out (after they said they would) brings up emotions of whether or not you can trust your partner’s word.

This contributes to the hurt emotions you are feeling, and why it is hard to remain calm during an argument with your spouse. The fight isn’t simply about chores left undone. It is also about how they have ruined your trust in them, and what that could mean for the future. If you can’t count on them with this menial task, what will happen when something more critical comes along?

Myth #2: Be Reasonable and Specific

“When the fear center of my brain is glowing red, my cortex, the seat of deliberate reasoning, is most often not online” (Johnson). More helpful advice would be to try refraining from saying something you might regret. When your feelings have been hurt, it is a natural reaction to want to hurt the other person in revenge. Do not give in to that temptation.

Johnson compares the act of making a threat to trying to rearrange your living room by throwing a grenade in there. Doing so may give you the advantage, and definitely changes the scenario. However, you have to consider if it is the best way to handle the problem. “As one of my clients told me, ‘When she uses the D word, divorce I mean, it’s like I have a pen knife and she has a nuclear weapon. I just freeze up. I can’t talk at all’” (Johnson).

Myth #3: Take a Time-Out

On the surface, it may seem like you are trying to push your spouse away when you argue with them. However, the real reason you are trying to communicate is to share your insecurities and concerns with them. This would be futile if they just walked away from you.

“I think in many of us this is just going to trigger higher levels of alarm and resentment. Aren’t we all just a little threatened by our loved one being able to turn and walk away, as if we didn’t matter at all? In my practice, the only people who can use ‘time-outs’ are those who have very mild fights and tons of love between them – that is, those who don’t really need it” (Johnson).

This doesn’t mean you should let the fight get carried away, but don’t try ending it by ignoring your partner. If things start to get out of control, say something. Tell them you value and want to hear what they have to say, but both of you are communicating unproductively.

What to Do After a Fight

Disagreements come up. Fights are going to happen. This is part of being human and the fact that we all make mistakes. Therefore, try not to avoid conflict altogether. Focus on limiting the damage and repairing it afterward.

When discussing your fight, Johnson suggests concentrating on how you feel instead of your spouse’s actions. What is it that upset you and caused the ensuing argument? How did you feel during the fight? Why did you feel that way?

“You can both assume, if it was a serious fight, that you scared each other. Our research shows that you can heal hurts and create a love that lasts by showing your partner that you care about their feelings and opening the door to what I call a Hold Me Tight conversation” (Johnson).

When Paul writes to the New Testament churches, he continually reminds them to share one another’s burdens. He also tells them to forgive those who have wronged them. The same thing is required in a marriage. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

During arguments, you will do and say harmful things out of anger or fear. Concentrating on being kind and loving will help you be less hurtful toward your partner. It will also help you focus on where they are coming from and what they are trying to communicate.

How Christian Counseling Can Help You Deal with Conflict in Marriage

There is no way to avoid conflict in marriage. In fact, Johnson says that it is unhealthy even to try. She compares it to two people trying to dance, but are so nervous about stepping on each other’s toes that they don’t put their feet anywhere.

If you are worried about the magnitude of your quarrels, you may want to make an appointment with a Christian marriage counselor Newport Beach. They are there to provide a safe space for discussing your problems. They can help you pinpoint your fears and figure out what motivates your emotional outbursts.

“Overwhelmed,” courtesy of Nik Shuliahin,, CC0 License; “Worried,” courtesy of Had Limcaco,, CC0 License; “Conversation,” courtesy of,, CC0 License; “Forever,” courtesy of Gus Moretta,, CC0 License 

Getting Over an Affair: Can Christian Marriages Survive Infidelity?

Possibly the worst betrayal you can experience is having your spouse choose to get his or her needs met outside of your marriage, whether those needs are physical or emotional. Is it possible for a Christian marriage to recover from an affair? What does forgiveness look like? Where is the hope in this situation?

The good news is that there is always hope. But this hope requires a willingness on the part of both spouses, the betrayer and the betrayed, to work through the situation with openness and honesty and a common goal of reconciliation.

Important Steps for Getting Over an Affair

This process of getting over an affair is extremely difficult to undertake, but if there is true repentance, the right form of counseling, and helpful strategies, a marriage can become even stronger than it was prior to the affair.

Ask For Forgiveness

It’s essential that the spouse who strayed asks their husband or wife to forgive them, but it’s also important to consider others who were affected by their sin. This might include one’s children or grandchildren, or other people like extended family, friends, and coworkers.

Humbling ourselves enough to admit wrongdoing is very difficult. It takes great effort and courage, but it’s so important to ask for forgiveness from those who were affected by our selfish, foolish, and sinful actions.

Seek Counseling

Everyone involved in and affected by an affair must walk through the difficult recovery process. This is a time when it’s vital to have someone else walk with us through a difficult season, so a pastor or trained Christian counselor Newport Beach should be involved.

In order to pursue the goal of getting over an affair and restoring the marriage, a mediator is helpful to facilitate conversations that are constructive and authentic. Having an outsider bring their perspective to the marriage can shed a lot of light on what contributed to the breach. This mediator can also provide accountability and guidelines for protecting the marriage going forward.

Share the Hurt Honestly

Getting over an affair requires peeling back many layers of hurt and betrayal in the betrayed spouse: in their emotions, spirit, mind, and body. All of their thoughts and hurts should be treated as important. Each layer needs to be examined so that the pain caused by the affair is evident.

It can be difficult to realize that sometimes the betraying spouse also has legitimate hurts from his or her marriage. This isn’t to justify adultery, but it’s possible that there are struggles that were taking place before the affair that should be addressed.

Listen and Admit to Personal Wrongs

It’s very hard to listen to our faults being described and be willing to admit our culpability. It’s even harder to listen to our wrongs and not respond by justifying our actions. There is a time for explanations, but this is not that time. It is very important to acknowledge that what you’ve done has caused deep pain for your spouse.

Identify Negative Patterns in the Relationship

There were probably negative patterns in the marriage before the affair started. To change these patterns and heal the marriage, the causes need to be identified. Like many marriages, yours may only have been surviving instead of thriving.

A pastor or counselor can help identify some of these negative patterns, such as lack of time spent together, lack of connection over hopes and dreams, preoccupation with daily life over developing intimacy, social media addiction, or prioritizing other relationships. Figuring out these unhealthy patterns is an important part of moving toward reconciliation.

Agree to Establish Healthy Patterns in the Relationship

Once these negative patterns have been identified, it’s time to put in place and work toward positive goals and then to ask what things need to be done in order to effect lasting change.

Establish Intentional Time Together (date night, face-time, and couch time)

For any marriage to thrive, and especially for one to heal from adultery, a couple has to intentionally set aside time to be together. This can be a weekly date night routine, having face-time twice a week in order to reconnect, or having daily “couch time” when the kids know it’s Mom and Dad’s time to spend talking.

Especially if kids are aware that an affair took place, it’s important that they see their parents spending time reconnecting and talking, and even eventually laughing together.

Establish Accountability

It’s crucial to ask a trusted friend or pastor to provide ongoing accountability. This isn’t just for the purpose of preventing another affair, but to ensure that the strategies put in place are carried out consistently. Questions such as “When are you going on a date?” or, “Did you have face-to-face time this week?” can help keep those habits in place.

Forgive, and be Willing to Move On

It’s not helpful to constantly refer to the affair going forward. Once the hurt has been shared and processed, and there’s been forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s crucial to focus on the positive to move forward.

New feelings will undoubtedly arise and can be shared and worked through, but the affair should not be used to shame or coerce the betraying spouse.

Understand that Grieving Takes a While

Even once the adultery has been forgiven, the grieving process is still happening, and each person has their own timeline for grief. Some may recover well within months, and for others, it may take years.

There needs to be an understanding that things are going to be hard and there will be some setbacks along the way, but there’s hope as long as things keep moving ahead and the marriage is being strengthened.

Abide by the Covenant of Marriage

And lastly, let’s remember that the only covenant on earth that we have, apart from God’s covenant with us, is our covenant with our spouse. This isn’t a contract you can cancel at any time; it’s a sacred vow. It’s not a relationship that’s a trap, but a context in which to thrive.

Don’t hesitate to invest time, energy, and even finances in your marriage (such as having a romantic getaway without children). Marriage isn’t an automatic success; rather, it is either invested in or it is not. Especially if you’re trying to help your marriage recover from an affair, you need to be willing to invest in it and make it a top priority.

When you are willing to seek Christian marriage counseling early on in the recovery process, you’ll prevent future heartache resulting from unresolved issues. Being married means living out the parable of Christ’s relationship with His church. So even when it’s difficult, it’s worth our time, effort, and desire.

“Let’s Sit a While,” courtesy of I’m Priscilla,, Public Domain License; “Not in Public,” courtesy of Ezra Jeffrey,, Public Domain License; “Paradise Found,” courtesy of Nathan McBride,, CC0 License; “To have and to hold,” courtesy of Jon Asato,, CC0 License