Marriage, when it is not working, can be the loneliest place in the world. The covenant of marriage requires us to love, honor, trust and cherish. If we don't do that, then we have no foundation to stand on. Every argument we ever have is a trust issue. When we violate trust, to any degree, then we are telling our partner that our love is not important and they are not important.
You can love someone and not trust them, but when you trust, the love will always follow. In Christian marriage counseling, we work on trust. There is nothing we can do about love because it is an emotion.
The safety of hearing each other and validating each others perceptions does not require agreement. It is a true act of love. It gives us a place to work through the tough issues with empathy and respect. No secrets are needed when both parties are safe to hear each other and validate ("I understand," "I hear what you are saying," "What you're saying is...").
Men's Needs Versus Women's Needs
In general terms, men and women have different fundamental needs.
Women fundamentally take the temperature on the marriage based on how much they feel "cherished." Cherished means: "She is my best friend," "I don't know what I would do without her," "I'm so lucky to have her." When women don't f...
The topic of forgiveness has been discussed at length across the globe, throughout history, and among several different religions and philosophies. However, there is one specific belief system in which the concept of forgiveness encompasses a depth and magnitude unlike any other in all of the world and that is Biblical Christianity.
The concept of forgiveness is mentioned in the bible at least 75 times throughout the Old and New Testaments. Depending on which translation you use, you may see words like “remission” used in place of the word “forgiveness.”
There are different themes in the Word concerning this concept of forgiveness but they are tied together. There is first the concept of God’s forgiveness towards us, as sinners; and then there is the concept of us, sinners, forgiving fellow sinners. The immensity of this biblical concept is extremely difficult for the human mind to grasp; which must mean that it is meant for our spirits to grasp instead.
Perhaps one of the most powerful verses on forgiveness that exists is the following which combines both of the aforementioned concepts in one passage:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as ...
In my studies as family counselor, one of the first courses we took was a look into the family lifecycle. We obviously know the individual lifecycle – birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and then older adulthood (and of course we could subdivide that many ways).
The family lifecycle, then, has the following stages: launching (leaving your parents after adolescence), coupling, parenting young children, parenting adolescents, launching your own children, then adulthood in later life. Each of these phases of life carries unique challenges and obstacles to be overcome.
Parenting of young children, for example, includes managing expectations of both the parents and the grandparents and finding the balance of family support that will work the best for the family. Parenting of adolescents involves working out how to manage the wills and growth of independence of the adolescent children as they are not as dependent on their parents anymore.
One area where I have seen a lot of trouble (especially in Seattle, Washington in 2019), is the struggle that families have when they have an adult child living at home. I believe that this situation is causing a lot of trouble for families not because it is inherently a bad thing, but because 1) we as a society don’t have ...
Many of us go through life more or less on automatic, making the best choices we can based on the available information. It is only natural for us to want things to run as smoothly as possible. If we aren’t naturally prone to worry, it is easy to brush away concerns about physical symptoms as long as they aren’t too disruptive.
We may put off a physical examination, or ignore something that “isn’t that big a deal.” I have heard many people say they hate hospitals. It makes sense, then, that they would be resistant to a check up that might result in a trip to one.
If we can get past that resistance, and develop a healthy approach to our health care, we can make use of what’s available as appropriate and often get results that help us lead healthier happier lives. The very same can be said of mental health care. But even with all the normalization mental health in the media and schools, there is a lot of subliminal resistance to making use of it.
The Stigma Around Family and Marriage Counseling
It’s not surprising that people still have a negative view of mental health care. Forty years ago, a psychiatric hospital was referred to as “the booby hatch,” “bughouse,” and “funny farm” among other names, and I still hear those terms bandied abou...
As a counselor, the vast majority of clients I see have either endured or perpetrated some type of emotional abuse throughout their lifetime. Emotional abuse is quite pervasive, and it is a fairly new topic to be discussed as generations prior would not have even considered the effects of their words or actions qualifying as abusive.
I do want to differentiate right away between someone being an emotional abuser, and someone saying or doing emotionally abusive things. An abuser will perpetually hurt, undermine, or seek to gain a manipulative upper hand over others – whereas the majority of people will have the capacity to say or do something that is emotionally abusive in an isolated situation or circumstance without being a habitual abuser.
We have all at some point or another sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but repenting and seeking reparation for the wrong we have done is key. However, there are types of people who will continually hurt others and destroy intimate connections with people – whether intentional or unintentional – and their behaviors rarely change for the better.
Emotional abuse may take place in a romantic relationship, a parental relationship, among siblings, on the playground at school, in the office at work, in the pews at church, ...
In my work, I see a mix of couples, families, and individuals. It’s rare that a problem exists solely with an individual without any repercussions for the surrounding family. Problems that affect you will affect your family and problems that affect your family will affect you.
A bedrock of your family, your marriage serves as a motor for the family as a whole. If the marriage is healthy, your family usually shows signs of health but when marriage problems arise, they can affect the whole family as well, like a series of ripples in a pond.
The Social Ecology of the Family
Imagine a series of concentric circles. Somewhere near the middle is the circle that represents “you” in your wholeness and entirety. There are few more inside which represent your mind, your body, your body chemistry, and your soul.
Moving outward from the “you circle,” next, we might see your immediate family, your extended family and friends, your neighborhood, your city, your culture, and your country. Like rings of a tree or the ripples on a pond, these circles represent the multiple realms that affect who you are. This series of circles is sometimes called the “social ecology of the family.”
“Social ecology of the family” is a heavily loaded term, so let’s dissect it ...
Emotional abuse is one of those categories that has an incredibly broad spectrum of narrative variety. Therapeutically, you will find as many kinds of emotional abuse as there are patients. They often follow similar themes of parental neglect or denigration, but because we are all wired differently, the impact on us is quite varied.
One person may suffer cutting judgments from a parent and somehow understand they are wrong, and retain a good emotional structure, while another with similar treatment turns inward into self-loathing and despondency, or outward into feeling one down and rage. Our internal structure is a combination of our innate wiring coupled with our responses to traumatic experiences.
How We are Wired
When we are born, we have no sense of self. We experience our mother literally as a breast, the source of our sustenance. When we first experience that we cannot have that breast on demand, we begin to learn that we are not a god, and want to destroy this source of nourishment since we can’t have it when we want it.
As we grow and develop, we begin to understand that the breast is attached to a mother, whose gaze we want to capture, and that this mother can leave us but she always comes back. We need to be seen, known and loved well; to be able to ...