I recently read one of Jennie Allen’s blog posts titled Why (I think) Everyone Should Have a Counselor. My take away from her blog was this:
Marriage is hard.
A good marriage takes work.
Sometimes we need a third party to help us communicate, hear truth, sort our feelings, and apply God’s principles.
Jennie, I wholeheartedly agree! So much so that I decided to sit down with a professional counselor (whom I know loves God) and (whom I know does a lot of marriage counseling) and ask a few questions:
K: With over 20 years of counseling couples, is there a common issue or struggle you see over and over?
C: I meet with men and women in my practice, almost daily, who describe being lonely in their marriage. Longing is the word that comes to mind as they talk about the love they want to experience, and the closeness they are hoping to find. Women often enter therapy feeling unimportant to men. Men, in turn, feel they are failing because their wives seem so unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
K: How do you counsel them through these issues and feelings? Do you have a standard response?
C: The practical and therapeutic approach is to ask a few questions. How often do they have a date night away from children? How often do they go out without friends? How often do they guard the evening hours by being off of the phone or internet?
It is healthy and normal to want connectedness and esteem from a spouse. The simple idea of getting time alone with each other can help couples reconnect beyond parenting…for a time. However, many couples are trying to get from each other what they can only get from God.
K: Can you elaborate?
C: Sure. A deep knowing that you are acceptable and wanted cannot be given to you by any person. Psalm 73:26 states that, “the flesh and the heart will fail, but the strength of my heart is God and forever He is my portion (my everything).”
When the strength of the heart is God, all else pales against His power and perfection. If you are trying to feel loved by a spouse or important to a spouse the foundational groundwork of knowing who you are in Christ and that you are the beloved bride to the bridegroom must already be in your identity. When we have intimacy with God there is less insecurity about value and lovability to people. There’s this underlying theme in romance novels, tv, and movies that another person can fulfill us. I still remember the line from Jerry Maguire when Renee Zellweger tells Tom Cruise “You complete me.” As humans we cannot complete each other. We were all created with a ‘God shaped hole’ that only He can fill. When the burden of wholeness and happiness falls solely on your spouse, they will fail you; they cannot stand up to the weight of that burden.
K: So, obviously, couples feeling alone in their marriage aren’t probably going to solve this overnight, but could you give them some quick professional advice?
C: Well, don’t wait until the marriage is ‘on fire’ before you decide to start working on it. If they can manage it from a time and financial perspective, seek a professional therapist. Most churches will have some resources for counseling or programs to help you work through issues within a marriage. Either way, make your relationship with God a priority. “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” Psalm 130:7
Carolyn Dunegan is a licensed therapist in Dallas, Texas. She has over 20 years specializing in individual and family counseling.
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