One of the hallmarks of marriage and family counseling is the idea that everything is connected. When a family is in a stressful situation, the stress might rear its head as a child acting out, as a relationship in turmoil, siblings fighting, or it can emerge in any other sort of relationship or individual. Further, when something is affecting the couple or marriage, it will likely affect any children or individuals from the family of origin.
This sort of interconnectedness is often called “systems” thinking or theory. Troubles go up and down, left and right in the hierarchy of the family, and it only follows then that coming around to support the family in therapy should include a multi-pronged approach.
When I work with couples and families, often they come in trying to say who the problem is, rather than what the problem is. In most instances, anything somebody has done can be boiled down to a symptom of a larger issue within the system.
A lack of affection from one individual might stem from a lack of trust in the relationship on both parts. Someone constantly blaming someone can be the symptom of neither partner listening. Rather than the “problem” residing in one person or the other, I like to frame it as the relationship that needs mending.
Let’s begin with a simple definition. An emotional affair is any relationship where we go outside our marriage to have our emotional needs met. This is by necessity an egregiously broad definition. The difficulty comes from the fact that we are created for relationship. It is our position in the relationship that determines whether it is an affair or not.
Examples of Emotional Affairs
Consider for a moment a wife who loves listening to live music, and a husband who doesn’t. He doesn’t engage with her and she feels lonely. She finds a friend who also loves live music and they begin going out on weekends. In the absence of her husband’s attention, she becomes attached to this friend, begins preferring her over her husband and choosing her needs over his.
Or a husband who works on a Bible Study with a single theology student who goes to his church. She is lively and interested and genuinely appreciates his mind. Things are okay at home, but this woman makes him feel alive in ways he hasn’t felt in years, or maybe ever. He begins to find reasons to text her and meet with her, and his interest in spending time with his wife begins to wane.
Or a pastor begins counseling a single woman, who is attractive and genuinely interested in him as a person, or damaged ...
This is the final article of a brief series of articles posted earlier addressing the notion described by Dr. David Ferguson as "Blending Four Ingredients for Marital Closeness." As we briefly explore this specific ingredient of "Grateful Giving," it is very important that the foundational work of the previous three ingredients be understood and experienced. I hope you will consider reading them.
More importantly, I hope you will join me in slowing down your life and allowing God to interrupt you with these simple relational principles. The intentionally repetitive work that is necessary for learning and living out compassionate care, trust, and joint accomplishment in marriages and relationships are the cornerstone from which authentic and grateful giving come.
To superficially and/or pretentiously attempt behavior that is incongruent with what you are internally experiencing will lead to frustration, emotional distance, greater conflict, and feelings of futility.
Additionally, it is imperative that you understand that this is not a formula or action steps for conflict-free relationships. In fact, the opposite is true. These ingredients make room in our minds, emotions, and attitudes for experiencing healthy conflict and greater intimacy in your marriage.
When I was a kid, I read a comic book about a criminal foursome exposed to cosmic rays who ended up with super powers. As you may have guessed, the story was part of the Fantastic Four series. One scene in particular stands out; there was a woman whose ability was to convert herself into any gas she chose. Near the end, as their powers are overwhelming and destroying them, her husband is suffocating because his repulse ability is pushing all the oxygen away from him. In a desperate attempt to save him, she converts herself to oxygen, but his power disperses her on the wind like so much vapor. At its worst, this is what a codependent relationship is like.
What is Codependency?
Clinically, codependency is a relationship dynamic where one person subverts himself or herself in service to another, at the expense of their own well-being. A spouse to a substance user who goes out and buys the substance for him or her is codependent. Spouses who make it their job to keep everyone happy in the marriage (or the family) are codependent. Battered spouses who stay in the relationship are codependent, dispersed on the wind like the woman in the story.
There is such a thing as a harmless, or mostly harmless, codependent relationship, but the impact can be insidious long-term. At t...
As I continue this series of articles on "Ingredients for Relational Intimacy in Marriage," I once again express my gratitude and deep respect to Dr. David Ferguson, his book, Intimate Encounters and The Great Commandment Ministries team in Cedar Park, Texas.
Marriage Myths & Lies
Healthy marriages require specific ingredients that include intentionality and clear purpose. It is a sad commentary in our Christian and non-Christian marriages that few couples have a common vision for their lives. One doesn't have to look very far to find another fractured and collapsed family.
Sadly, very few individuals have ever stopped long enough to consider what a Godly vision (direction with passion and wisdom) is for their lives. Consequently, marriages perish relationally. In fact, God's Word says, "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild" (Proverbs 29:18).
If we don't have clear direction for our marriages, we are blind to the absolute necessity for relational ingredients that can insure a successful marriage. This leads to the question, "What is stopping us from experiencing 'Joint Accomplishment?'"
I suggest we explore a few marriage myths and lies that cripple relationships and permit toxic relational ingredients to thrive.
If you've clicked through to this article, my guess is that you're either desperate to save your marriage, or trying to find ways to help another couple save theirs. In either case, I pray that the following tips shared here will be a practical help to you, and that God would use this offering, combined with His grace and power, to make a difference for good.
Before we begin, allow me to lay some groundwork. I have been married for 23 years and have worked as a couple’s therapist for the past 19. While I have gained a lot of insight into the psychological dilemmas that couples face through secular study, my worldview about marriage as an institution is shaped through my faith as a Christian.
This article is intended to share helpful tips based on my personal and professional experience that allow couples to have a growing, nourishing marriage that will last for life. As a Christian Counselor, I pick approaches to couple’s therapy that reflect Biblical principles. The tips below reflect a blending of the two that I have seen make all the difference in a couple staying happy long-term in their marriage versus ending up shipwrecked on the shores of divorce and misery.
Through the years it has been humbling and an honor to be associated with David Ferguson and Great Commandment Ministries. Most of what I have written about originates from Dr. Ferguson's book and healing vehicle, Intimate Encounters.
Achieving Relational Intimacy in Marriage
With David's mentoring and my counseling journey (as client and professional), I have realized the significance and lethality of aloneness, the significance of authentic relational care, obstacles to relational intimacy, and the foundational ingredient of compassion vs. pride in marriages. This article will address a second ingredient to deeper relational intimacy in marriage in the form of trust and vulnerability vs. distrust and fear.
Whether our experience is positive or negative in the areas mentioned above, one thing is for sure: they both require a tremendous amount of work. One might be thinking, "How can neglecting or causing pain in a marriage require a lot of work?"
My response is very simple. I will make this personal, of course with my wife Paulette's permission. When (not if) I hurt Paulette's heart with a critical attitude and emotion...