Marriage: Priority #1

Make Marriage Your Priority - Quality Time

Love is a Verb

Happily ever after isn’t easy to make happen, no matter what Hollywood says. It’s work building a lasting relationship. But most anything worthwhile is. You may have “fell” in love when dating, however, when the new wears off you’re going to have to work to make love happen.

Make Your Marriage Priority #1

Do your actions, schedule, and budget show your spouse is #1 in your life after God? Nothing else is more influential on your quality of life and the health of your kids than the relationship between you and your spouse.

Marriage Priority Test

Answer True or False for the following statements: Almost always…

  • I spend more time engaging my spouse than I do watching TV or on my phone.
  • I interrupt whatever I am doing if my spouse wants my attention?
  • I recognize in a significant way my spouse’s birthday, our anniversary, and other special days.
  • My spouse and I go on vacations alone together at least once per year.
  • I have at least one personal and meaningful discussion with my spouse per week for at least 25 minutes.
  • When my spouse phones I make time to talk.
  • I speak to my spouse about non-logistical matters at least twice per day.
  • When my spouse walks into the house, I interrupt whatever I am doing to greet my spouse.
  • If I’m with my spouse and some one else phones I don’t take the call.
  • When something significant happens in my life I share it with my spouse first.
  • When we go to social functions I spend at least half the time talking with my spouse.
  • When I walk into the house the first thing I do is greet my spouse.
  • I spend more time interacting with my spouse than any one else in my life.
  • When I need someone to talk to I talk to my spouse.
  • My spouse and I go out alone together at least once per week.
  • I have photographs of my spouse in my office, wallet, or phone.
  • I do unnecessary thoughtful things for my spouse regularly.

* Adapted from Mort Fertel’s “Put Love First Marriage Assessment”

Love isn’t Selfish with Time

Putting your spouse and marriage first requires time and focus. There is no substitute. Soulmates aren’t perfect for each other, they love each other with all their imperfections. Take an interest in the things that interest your spouse. You don’t have to be interested in the same things, you just have to be interested in your spouse.

Be the one they look forward to hang together. Find a hobby that you can both enjoy and engage together. Trade “Me” time for “We” time. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have activities in your life that don’t include your spouse, but these should be limited and far less than together activities.

Be a good parent – put your spouse first.

Having quality time with your kids is important. Even more important is having quality time with your spouse. Kids need the security and relational learning that comes from a mom and dad that are passionately in love with each other.

You can’t give to them what you don’t have. If you don’t give them the gift of knowing what a healthy marital relationship looks like, how will they know how to have that for themselves as an adult? They’re not going to get in high school or college, that’s for sure.

There is No Substitute for Quality Time

Your relationship is like a tomato plant. All the conditions for growing plump, delicious tomatoes can be perfect: great sun, fence to keep the animals out, soil with just the right mix of nutrients, spray to keep the bugs away – but if you don’t water it, it won’t grow.

You can’t dump 100 gallons on your tomato plant once a year and expect it to not need water the rest of the time (think vacation). The ground can only soak up so much at a time and the rest rolls off. There’s also no such thing as “super wet water” that only requires minimal application because it’s so super quality (we don’t spend very much time together, but we make sure it’s “quality” when we do).

No, your tomato plant is going to need regular, daily watering if it’s going to bear fruit. Without it the flowers will die, the leaves will wither, and before long there will only be scorched earth.

So it is with your relationship and quality time, there’s no substitute.

Minimum Quality Time for a Healthy Relationship

As a rule of thumb, I recommend the following quality time schedule for all couples as a minimum for keeping their relationship healthy:

15-20 min a Day

At some point in the day, every day, make some time to give your spouse your undivided attention and meaningful conversation. This could be morning coffee together, pillow talk before bed, or any number of other forms. It’s best to have a bit of a ritual though to make it a habit. Having it be a habit will increase the likelihood of it happening consistently. Try to keep it up even when apart by Facetime or phone call.

1 hour Sync Meeting a week

This is the business meeting for your family, where you and your spouse get on page about schedules and upcoming decisions, so you don’t have to use your date time for this.

2-4+ hours a week

Date night is what most couples call this, though it could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night dancing. When our kids were young going to the grocery store without children felt like a date! The important thing is that it’s a time of relaxed “hanging out” without kids. Have fun together and enjoy some adult conversation without interruptions every 2 seconds.

An Overnight Once a Quarter (24hours+)

An overnight or weekend getaway where you spend a full day or two with your honey enjoying life as lovers and friends is so very important to staying in love. Whether it’s a romantic getaway to somewhere tropical, or a staycation at a local hotel – having a relaxed time to enjoy each other’s presence without children is key.

We don’t have time to do that!



Time Frequency Yearly Total Hours
Conversation 15mn Daily 92
Sync 1hr Week 52
Date 2hr Week 104
Get-Away 1 day Quarterly 96
344 hours

There are 8,760 hours in a year. At 344 hours, it takes less than 4% of your time to give the most important relationship in your life the priority it needs to be healthy.

Put the Important Things First

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Love The One You’re With

Love The One You're With

Love The One You’re With

Most people mistakenly think the key to marital happiness is a matter of finding the “right person” by luck or providence. If this your mindset there’s a good chance you’re divorced or you will be. The real secret isn’t finding the “right one”, it’s learning to love the one you’re with.

Pop, Fizz, Flat

Lot’s of energy, time, and money are put into trying to find, attract, and lock down that special someone. The feeling of being in love is phenomenal and makes the sun shine brighter on the darkest or brightest day. Then, after the initial hormonal high of love wears off, the pop and fizz goes flat.

The truth is lasting love actually has very little to do with finding the right person or what we’re feeling after the new shine wears off. Instead it’s about knowing how to “make love” in your heart toward your spouse. Yet the majority put very little effort into learning how to love, even though they deeply long for love.

Am I with the right person?

If you’re asking if you’re with the right person, you’re asking the wrong question. If you buy an iPhone and you can’t figure out how to use it, trading it out for a different brand of smartphone isn’t going to fix the problem. You have to learn how to use it.

Learn to Make Love

You have to learn how to make love. There are universal principles that control our experience of love. If you learn and apply these laws, you can produce predictable results in your marriage. You can make a connection that will make the difference.

3 Marriage Options

The way I see it, you have 3 options.

Lower Your Expectations

This is the option that most couples, who don’t divorce, take. Once the sizzle fades, they accept that marriage isn’t going to be what they hoped for. They surrender to not being passionately in love and find a pattern of life that get’s them by, surviving but not thriving.


We are creative creatures, when we put our mind to finding a way to justify our choices we can generally come up with something. So finding a reason to give up and stop trying won’t be too difficult. But, it also wont be too satisfying. Unlike with the airlines, our baggage is guaranteed to show up at our new destination. Once the pop and fizz goes flat there, you’ll be back in the same boat. Just with more pain, regret, and less money. Let me save you a bunch of all of the above – this isn’t a good option. Even when it’s necessary, it’s a terrible option.

Love The One You’re With

Just because you’ve tried everything you know doesn’t mean you’ve tried everything and it’s hopeless. The laws of love are universal and are learnable. Invest the time and effort to apply them and you will reap the relational benefits from doing so. They can be found in the Bible, in books, videos, and the wise words of those who have mastered them in their own marriage. You just have to be humble enough to seek them out and embrace them.

Worth It

Few, if any, investments in life have the kind of quality of life return that learning how to love does. It’s worth everything you put in to gain the happiness it produces.

Take the first step towards a better tomorrow, today.

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Tips for Successful Marriage Counseling

Given the big investment marriage counseling is, it makes sense to make the most of it. Here are some practical thoughts that will help you maximize your marriage counseling experience.

Don’t under estimate the damage.

Your marriage didn’t get where it’s at in a day, and it’s not going to get back on track overnight. It’s going to take time and work.

Don’t over estimate the damage.

There is hope even for the most severely damaged relationship. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you don’t know how to make things better. Keep your heart and mind open. Let your counselor help you discover the path to healing you’ve been unable to find on your own.

Come ready to work.

Marriage counseling is hard work. Your counselor does not have a magic wand that will fix your problems nor can he or she solve your problems for you. Your counselor can help you know what to do, but it’s up to you to do it.

Take responsibility.

Nobody can work on your stuff but you. If you’re not willing to make changes things probably aren’t going to change, no matter how much counseling you receive or how many books you read.

Understand the power of one.

The truth is you can’t change your spouse. Neither can your counselor. However, you can make changes in yourself that will influence your situation / relationships for the better. Your counselor can help you with that kind of change.

Don’t give up.

You cannot be defeated if you do not quit. Listen, the saying is true “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better; this is normal. Expect things your counselor says to make you uncomfortable at first. Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for us to have the life we want.

Marriage is tough. No successful marriage exists without times of hardship and struggle. Yet, if these problems are left untreated they can lead to divorce or a legal marriage with a dead relationship.

Common Marriage Problems

communication problems dependency issues | financial stress | broken trust | emotional neglect | addictive behavior | emotion or physical abuse | separation | boredom | emotional infidelity | silent treatments | lack of fulfilling sex | midlife crisis | lack of appreciation | stubborn spouses | lack of affection


The truth is these problems do have the potential to destroy a relationship. However, they can also serve as a catalyst to get help, which in time can make the relationship healthier, stronger, and more satisfying than you ever could have imagined.

Take the first step towards a better tomorrow, today.

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Professional Marriage Counseling Can Help

Professional Marriage Counseling Can Help

Marriage can be the best or worst part of our life.

When things are good in our relationship there is nothing better. When it’s not good it cast a cloud over everything else.  You want your marriage to make your life

better. You want to be happy. It doesn’t sound like too much to ask, but sometimes it seems so hard to grasp.

So many things can go wrong in marriage

The path to a lasting and rewarding marriage seems so narrow and hard to find. With so many marriages failing and couples struggling to like each other it makes one wonder if lasting happiness is possible.

  • We never thought we’d fall out of love when we exchanged our vows on our wedding day. Yet real life has a way of grinding away at our love for each other.
  • It seemed impossible that an affair could come between us and crush our heart.
  • There so much we didn’t know about our self back when we got married, maybe we just weren’t ready to get married.
  • There so much I didn’t know about my spouse, I feel tricked and trapped by a bait and switch scheme.
  • My spouse changed so much. We used to be passionate lovers, now I don’t even think their attracted to me.
  • Selfishness seems to dominate the relationship, it’s all about them and what they want.
  • We can’t even talk without fighting. We don’t know how to communicate.
  • Silent. Cold.
  • Awesome roommates, but not much else. We work well as a team taking care of the kids, but haven’t been lovers in a long time.
  • Everything gets swept under the rug. We don’t talk about anything that matters. We avoid conflict at all cost, and it’s killing us.

I don’t want to keep living like this

You don’t want to get divorced. You also don’t want to keep living like this. The burning question is “Can it get better?”

It’s hard to have hope when you’ve tried everything you know to do and it just keeps getting worse. Maybe we both make promises after it explodes and it gets better for a little while. It doesn’t take long, months-days-hours, before it goes right back the way it was before. Why should I believe that it will ever change?

You are not unique.

People have been flirting, coupling, and getting married for literally thousands of years. There is nothing new under the sun. I promise your problems aren’t unique. Lot’s of couples experience the same difficulties that you do. The reason that fact should encourage you is:

Professional marriage counselors spend THOUSANDS of hours doing marriage counseling every year helping couples just like you.

We know can overcome your struggles and have the marriage you have always wanted.

It IS hopeless.

There’s no reason to believe it will ever get better, IF you keep doing the same things you’ve always done.

Try something new.

Professional Marriage Counseling

Professional marriage counseling is different than listening to your mother or asking your friends what they did. Professional marriage counselors spend A LOT of time working with all sorts of people and every sort of marital difficulty. Their experience with complicated and easy cases gives them a vantage point that no one else has.

Here’s what you can expect from a professional marriage counselor:


Nobody wants their business spread all around town. Professional marriage counselors are held to legal and ethical standards that protect your confidentiality. Non-professionals aren’t held to the same standard.

Compassionate empathy.

Counselors get into the helping profession because we care about people. It’s not just a job for us, it’s our calling.

Professional listening.

Professional counselors are trained to listen intently to what is being said and what’s not being said. Our training and experience helps us know what to listen for so we can thoroughly understand you and your situation.

Best practices.

Professional training equips counselors to use the best evidence based, researched supported methods for helping people. This training combined with thousands of hours of experience enables us to be competent help to you.

Your marriage is so important, it just makes sense to entrust it to some one who is equipped to help.

MyCounselor.Online has a marriage professional near you that can be on your team, helping you fight for your marriage.


We had tried everything we knew. It seemed hopeless. We tried professional marriage counseling as a last ditch effort before divorce. We are SO glad we did. Our marriage is actually better now that it ever has been.
Jan and Frank, Nixa Missouri

Marriage Counseling has a VERY high success rate with committed couples.

Research on emotionally-focused couples counseling shows that 3 out of 4 couples (~73%) who engage professional relationship counseling reach a place of satisfaction with their relationship. At MyCounselor.Online we have NEVER (yes, I’m using the word never and I mean it) had a case where both spouses were committed to the marriage and both spouses engaged counseling and their relationship did not improve.

Take the first step towards a better tomorrow, today.

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Emotional Safety in Marriage

Emotional Safety in Marriage

Steps to Emotional Safety

Emotionally safety is a key part of a healthy relationship. It conveys to each other that “you matter to me therefor I care about how my words and actions effect you”. Without safety emotional intimacy is impossible, or at least unwise.

1) Respect Walls

No one likes relational walls. They prevent us from feeling close to others. We want to destroy walls so we can get through to the person on the other side. However, walls serve a purpose. Walls are always built by people who feel threatened. Attempting to tear down or through a wall only serves to confirm the original need for the wall. So do walls help relationships? No, not really. At some point, if a relationship is going to flourish, the wall has to come down. So what can one do to help take down a wall brick-by-brick?

  1. First, the person with the wall needs to know that you understand the wall is there for a reason and that you accept its presence. The person needs to know that his or her well-being is the most important thing to you; therefore, the wall can stay as long as it is needed.
  2. Second, let the person know that you’re not going to require him or her to be open with you or break down the wall until he or she feels safe. Your job is to give the other person every reason in the world to feel safe, while still honoring the right and responsibility of that person to take care of himself or herself.

2) Love

A second step to safety is learning to love the other person. Love, in the Biblical sense of the word, is about accurately seeing the immense value of someone made in God’s image. God created each one of us as a one-of-a-kind person, with unique gifts and personality. He sees us as precious and valuable, so much so Jesus was willing to give His very life to preserve ours. When we see and treat others as God does, we recognize and affirm their value. To love means to value, and to refuse to do, say, or act in ways that devalue. When we love, it helps create a safe environment that encourages relationships to grow.

3) Suspend Judgment

Compassion and understanding create a tremendous amount of safety. When a person refuses to judge motives, but instead tries to understand why a person acts in a particular way, that person’s compassion encourages the one on the receiving end to open up and relationships can grow. Judgment results in defensiveness and closes down relationships, while curiosity results in openness and safety, giving life to relationships. Judgment writes people off suggesting “I already know everything I need to in order to render my verdict.” Curiosity says something quite different. It says “I don’t know enough yet to render a verdict, so I’ll forget about sentencing for a while. It’s true I don’t like what has happened. But I still need to open the door to discovery.”

4) Value Differences

A fourth step to safety is learning how to deal with differences. When two people are in conflict, they often point to their differences as the problem. But that’s simply not true. Differences are actually a blessing if you know how to deal with them and capitalize on them. By valuing differences instead of resenting them we can grow in ways impossible on our own. If a relationship is going to be safe, it must make room for all of both people. If certain parts of your spouse are not welcome in the relationship, then there is no longer room for them to be who they are. There’s nothing safe about that. Instead a person is forced to put up walls or use energy to pretend to be someone they’re not. Intimacy is impossible in such circumstances because now we’re not even being real anymore.

5) Be Trustworthy

When we recognize the value of our spouse we refuse to act carelessly with them, but instead commit to being trustworthy. When we treat someone in a way that shows we recognize both their incredible value and their vulnerability, we demonstrate our trustworthiness. You need to be trustworthy with both others and yourself. We’ve already defined being trustworthy with others.

Being trustworthy with yourself means whenever you let someone have access to the most sensitive part of you and they start getting careless, you must take back that part of yourself and think, Excuse me. Apparently, you’ve lost track of how valuable and how vulnerable I am. But I haven’t, and I can’t let that happen. All relationships involve choice.

When people treat you badly, you can choose to be trustworthy in a couple ways. You may need to build a wall and shut the person out, at least for a time. That can be very appropriate. Some people have no clue and are not likely to get a clue anytime soon. Therefore you can treat them cordially, but you don’t need to give them access to the most vulnerable part of you. They can shout over your walls, but that’s it. Putting up walls can be effective, but they do have their drawbacks. Walls prevent us from being able to connect with people.

A second alternative is more like drawing a line in the sand. You say, “Hey, I’m safeguarding that part of me because I can’t trust you with it right now. But I want you to know that I want this relationship with you. Therefore, I will give you repeated opportunities to try again. But I need you to know that the next time I let you in, and every single time thereafter, I’ll be requiring the same thing: that you show me, through word and deed, that you understand how valuable and vulnerable I am and that you act accordingly. To the degree that you do this, let’s be friends. But when you forget, I need you to know that I will protect myself.” Creating these sort of boundaries allow a person to engage freely in relationship.

Take the first step towards a better tomorrow, today.

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Raising the Kids Without Losing the Passion

Life can be tough on a love affair. Yet God intends the passionate, fun, and emotionally intimate relationship we have with our spouse to reveal the kind of relationship He wants to have with all people. So how do we keep the love alive while surviving the daily grind of raising kids, work, and every curve ball challenge life throws at us?

Let’s take a quick look at the Time Starved Marriage, Love Languages, Overcoming Communication Challenges, and God’s thoughts about Sex. Each of these subjects could easily fill a whole article. We’re going to take a brief look at each here and I’ll highlight some resources you can dig into to learn more on each.

Time Starved Marriage Resources

Your Time-Starved Marriage: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life by Les and Leslie Parrott
Your Time-Starved Marriage: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life
by Les and Leslie Parrott

Your Time-Starved Marriage Workbook for Women: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life by Les Parrott et al.
Your Time-Starved Marriage Workbook for Women: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life
by Les Parrott et al.
Your Time-Starved Marriage Workbook for Men: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life by Les Parrott et al.
Your Time-Starved Marriage Workbook for Men: How to Stay Connected at the Speed of Life
by Les Parrott et al.

 Love Languages Resources

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary ChapmanThe 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
by Gary Chapman
The 5 Love Languages for Men: Tools for Making a Good Relationship Great by Gary D Chapman et al.
The 5 Love Languages for Men: Tools for Making a Good Relationship Great
by Gary D Chapman et al.
Love Talk Starters: 275 Questions to Get Your Conversations Going by Les Parrott et al.
Love Talk Starters: 275 Questions to Get Your Conversations Going
by Les Parrott et al.

Overcoming Communication Challenges Resources

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition (Business Books) by Kerry Patterson et al.
Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition (Business Books)
by Kerry Patterson et al.

God’s thoughts about Sex Resources

Amazing Intimacy: Create A Spectacular Marriage In and Out of the Bedroom by Doug Gustafson et al.
Amazing Intimacy: Create A Spectacular Marriage In and Out of the Bedroom
by Doug Gustafson et al.

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How Can I Ever Forgive? And Why Should I Anyhow?

“I’ll never forgive you for what you did to me!” Have you ever screamed that at someone or had it shrieked at you? Even now replaying the incident in your mind will send anger coursing through your veins. The scene is vivid and unforgivable. It should have never happened. The abuse. The affair. The betrayal. The loss.

I agree. It should have never happened.

Every week I hear stories of what should have never been. I work with clients sorting through the incomprehensible, the ridiculous, and the unbelievable in their lives. Trying to find sense and hope for broken dreams and shattered lives. Often in these early conversations, the topic of forgiveness is brought up by a client or their spouse. “I know I should forgive but it just hurts too badly. I don’t think I can ever do it.”


What about forgiveness? Where does it fit among the chaos of a shattered life?

It’s not the first thing on my mind as a therapist.First, I believe the story must be told and the heart tended to. What happened? Who did what to whom? The betrayed must have a full picture of the affair, the abuse or the loss so they can understand the magnitude of what it is that they are being asked to forgive. Forgive and forget is not an option. It doesn’t happen in the real world.  After weeks or months of grieving often the injured party wonders about forgiveness and then we begin the sincere conversation of what forgiveness really entails.

Often the pain of a situation is so intense that individuals will only be able to think, “Please stop the pain. I’ll do whatever it takes to make it stop.”  In their avoidance of pain, they blindly grant forgiveness before the offense is thoroughly uncovered and confessed. When this happens the process of healing is often short-circuited or even completely derailed. Bitterness and rage surface again when new details are uncovered.

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a choice, a deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment, anger or revenge toward another who has harmed you. It is not a one-time event but rather a process lived out over time. Forgiveness is giving up your “right” to hurt the other person back.  You might make a decision to forgive but still struggle for some time with feelings of unforgiveness. This is normal and to be expected. Feelings do not heal quickly.


  • Is for you, NOT the person who hurt you
  • Has the power to set you free to move on with your life
  • Can often only be accomplished with God’s help
  • Sets you free from being the judge and jury and places that responsibility in the correct hands—Gods’
  • Brings a sense of freedom (eventually)!
  • Is often difficult to grant and takes months or years to live out
  • Is based on the amount we have been forgiven by God
  • Is something we need from others
  • Is what we need to grant to others at times

Myths about forgiveness

  • Forgive and forget
    • A grievous wrong done to you will never be forgotten but with forgiveness and time the pain of the memory will be less.
  • If I forgive I have to stay in relationship with . . . (my spouse, child, boss, abuser)
    • Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. No one should EVER stay in an abusive relationship.
    • Often new boundaries need to be set. (i.e. not welcome in your house or blocked on social media )
  • They will get off the hook for what they did. I need to be sure they are punished.
    • It may appear for a time that they got away with hurting you but ask yourself, who am I really hurting by replaying these situations every day in my head?
    • God says he will take vengeance for the wrongs done to me and I imagine he can do a better job than me. (Romans 12)
    • Forgiveness is an act of trusting God and His word as it is filled with speaking of His bringing justice.

What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:21-35)

Peter who was often quick-tempered and talked without thinking asked Jesus, “How many times do I have to forgive someone who wrongs me?” Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven.” I am sure Peter was taken back by that answer in which Jesus really indicated there was no limit to forgiveness.

In this parable, the King starts going through his books to see who owes him money. He realizes this guy owes him millions of dollars and calls in him to find out how he is going to pay it.

The man asks for mercy and tells him, “I promise I will pay you.” To which the King decides to release or FORGIVE the debt. He no longer owes anything! Wow…that was a great day! (I’d love to just have my mortgage forgiven!)

Then the very same man goes out and finds one of his fellow servants who owes him a few thousand dollars and demands the money.  The man begs for mercy and says, “I promise I will pay you.” Instead of granting mercy as had just been granted to him the man throws his fellow servant in jail until he can pay it all back. WOW!! Shocking!

Of course, the other servants are angered and tell the King, at which point the King calls the man back in and reinstates his debt. Why did Jesus tell this story?

Lessons learned from the Parable

We need to have a full accounting of what is owed us or what we owe another. The King looked at the books before rendering a decision.

For example, after an affair has been disclosed or discovered, the injured party has the right to know appropriate details about the affair. Whom was it with? Was it sexualized? Is it ongoing? Etc. A mediated disclosure usually helps the process to go smoother for everyone involved.

As we have been forgiven “millions” we should forgive our “fellow servants” (friends, family, spouse) their “thousands”.

The Scripture is clear that we must forgive to truly be forgiven. (Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:32) That being said, if someone is pressuring you to forgive “because the Bible says you should” they probably still have their own repentance work to do. Someone who is truly sorry for the pain they have caused will give you space to grieve and struggle with the pain of the situation before demanding that you forgive them.

Forgiveness is a necessary part of the healing process but must be put in its proper place after the story is told and the heart is tended to. Forgiveness will flow out of a restored heart but never can be demanded before a person is ready.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling 




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Broken Promises – What to do about an affair.

affair pic
Broken Promises:

What to Do When You Find That Your Spouse Has Had an Affair

It could be your worst nightmare to wake up one day and discover the love of your life had or is having an affair.  Your spouse having an affair might be something you saw coming.  For others it is a bomb dropped out of the blue.  Regardless of how you found out about the affair, it is PAINFUL.  To know your husband or wife was potentially touching, kissing, holding hands with, saying I love you to, or having sex with another person is devastating.  You may obsess over the details of what might have happened and at the same time not want to know any of the details at all.  It is possible you do not want to know what happened because knowing the details would make it even more painful. Or maybe you can’t stop thinking about what he or she did.  You might spend hours or even days checking phone records, Facebook messages, emails, credit card statements, text messages, etc to find out what happened.  These feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are so common.  To be betrayed in this way is devastating, so devastating you may not know where to start to pick up the pieces of your marriage or if you should even try.

Here are some of the common phrases I have heard from men and women who have discovered their partner had an affair:

  • How could this happen?
  • Was I not good enough sexually? Am I not attractive enough? Am I not romantic enough? Am I not skinny enough? Am I not witty enough?  Am I just boring?
  • What do I do now? Do I get a divorce? Separate? Work it out?
  • Who do I talk to about this? If anyone knew they would judge me or us?
  • This will ruin our reputation of being the “it” couple everyone views us as
  • What really happened?  Did they have sex? How often did they have sex? Where did they have sex? What positions? What was he or she wearing? Did they have sex with them the same day they had sex with me?
  • Does my spouse have an STD? Do I have an STD now?
  • What else has my spouse been lying about?
  • I need to find the person whom my spouse had the affair with and talk to them.  Maybe it will help me.

Couples who have experienced this type of pain have often shared the above statements with me and in desperation do not know where to start or where to turn to get help.  Affair recovery is challenging and therefore the following are some fundamental truths I have come to understand are essential for those who have been hurt by an affair to understand, so that they can heal in a HEALTHY way:

Healing Takes Time and Energy

Once you discover your spouse’s affair occurred you will mostly likely experience emotions many people experience when a traumatic event occurs.  These symptoms mirror what many people know as post-traumatic stress disorder.  It is common you will experience distressing recollections of finding out about the affair or images of what could have happened during the affair. This may be accompanied by distressing dreams about your spouse and the affair partner.  There may be times when you actually physically feel like or act like the events leading up to the affair or the discovery of the affair are happening in the present.  Also, you may experience intense psychological distress when exposed to objects and places that resemble aspects of your spouse’s affair.  These symptoms may scare or confuse both you and your spouse and may have an even more of a negative impact on your marriage or the situation.  These feelings and experiences are NORMAL in situations where affairs have occurred, but can make you feel alone and hopeless.  These types of flashbacks and symptoms require therapeutic assistance and care.

Wanting to move on quickly or sweep what happened under the rug in the name of forgiveness or not dwelling on it is unhealthy.  It is important to allow yourself to feel what has happened and to process through your pain over time.  Learning how to process through this pain may require help from a professional.

Imagine being shot in the chest on purpose by someone you love.  Would you expect the next day that you would be able to get up and walk around? Would you think that you could wake up the next morning and just let that person know it is okay they loaded a gun and shot you in the chest?  In the same way we cannot just “get over” an affair after someone has hurt our heart.  It will take time to nurse your own wound, as well as, it will take time to heal the relationship with the person who hurt you.  You have to allow it time to heal properly, so you can truly heal.  “Moving on” by putting it out of your mind and trying to forget about it is not a means of cleaning the wound.  It is similar to putting duck tape over a wound.  If you were to do this with a gunshot wound you would experience internal bleeding, infection, and possibly death.  Similarly, if you just glaze over your pain and do not allow yourself to deal with it you will end up hurting yourself more and possibly experiencing the death of the marriage.

Your pain will come out in angry outburst at work or at your children.  You may grow a silent bitterness towards your spouse if you decide to stay together that will continue to grow each year if it goes unchecked.  You may hurt yourself physically or have self-hating thoughts.  We must not avoid pain because in the end we will suffer more.  We must be willing to deal with the pain temporarily, so that we can heal and move forward. 


You Have Time To Make A Decision

Also, it is important to understand that making a quick decision during this time about staying together or getting a divorce may not be useful either.  Just like someone who has been shot in the chest will have a hard time making big decisions it is the same way for someone who has just learned that their spouse had an affair.  You will need to take time to assess the situation when you have healed in order to make a decision you feel good about.  It is important to take time to gain an understanding of what happened.  When you learn your spouse has just had an affair you may feel as though everyone is looking at you to see what decision you will make next.  You may feel like you are on some sort of timer to make a decision about your relationship today or tomorrow.  This is a FALSE sense of urgency.  You may have friends say to stick it out with your spouse or to leave him or her.  You may have your kids in mind and thinking about what they would want you to do. All of these factors make it difficult to make a decision.  Instead of being impulsive, take some time to think about the decision you want to make.  Allow yourself to hurt feel the pain, and process through it. After that begin to decide what you want to do.  Consult with people you trust who are not biased and seek professional help.


There is Right Way To Heal

Similar to cleaning out a gunshot wound there is a PROCESS FOR HEALING when an affair occurs during a marriage.  Putting duck tape over the wound may make the blood stop from oozing out of your for a few minutes, but will not heal the wound.  In the same way there is a process for helping couples and individuals to navigate through after effects of an affair, so that they can move on and have healthy, functional, and fulfilling lives moving forward.  Millions of people have experienced affairs.  Fortunately because of this, there are materials and trained professionals out there to help couples to navigate through the pain of affairs. You may feel as though you can make it through by yourself, but there is a better and more effective way to move past the pain.  Seeking professional help to assist you personally or to help you and spouse navigate through the pain may be essential in helping to heal.  A trained therapist will help you to recover from the affair and will help you to navigate through the trauma. They will help you to understand what happened and why.  Lastly, it will help you to make decisions where to go and what to do during each stage of recovery.  We have therapists in our office who specialize in affair recovery and can to help you navigate through this tough time in your marriage.

Your marriage matters to God and because of that it matters to me.   You do not have to walk alone through affair recovery and if you need help it is available to you.

Click here to make an appointment with someone who can help.

Resources: Helping couples get past the affair a clinician’s guide Baucom, Donald H., and Douglas K. Snyder. Guilford Press; 2009.


christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Child-Centered Parenting, Peer Pressure, & Family Identity

child-centered parentingWhat is child-centered parenting?

Child-centered parenting occurs when the majority of activities within the house revolve around the children. It is a common phenomenon with marital consequences. Instead of children being welcome members to the family, they are the center of the family. Those beautiful children with dimples and cute smiles come between the two most important members of the family unit, the husband and wife. A solid husband and wife relationship creates security in the hearts of the children. The opposite is also true, fighting and friction between parents creates insecurity and fear of divorce in children.

Where does child-centered parenting come from?

Well-meaning parents swallow the cultural lie that children need to be “well-rounded”. To achieve the goal of “well-roundedness” parents sign their children up for every available activity: T-ball, dance, little league, swimming lessons, karate, writing lessons, riding lessons, taekwondo, music lessons, soccer, golf, etc.

It exhausts parents physically and financially. The possible children’s events today are endless (until you run out of money). So the big question—are activities BAD? Absolutely not. It is good for children to learn to swim, swing a bat, play an instrument and play cooperatively with others. So what is the problem then?

The Major Problems

Child-centered parenting breaks down the family unit. The parents become nothing more than taxis running their children from event to event often splitting up to attend separate events. Two more problems flow from this:

The Loss of the Marriage Relationship

Experts tell us that “empty-nest” is the time of the highest divorce rate in America. Why? I believe one cause is child-centered parenting. Parents become enamored with their children’s success in a variety of arenas and take little to no time for themselves or each other. Finding themselves alone after the last child has gone to college; spouses don’t even know what to say to each other. When the nights stretch endlessly without a child’s game to attend or a play to applaud, husbands and wives watch TV during dinner and wonder who it is they are sitting in the room with.

If you are married and reading this article, when is the last time you took your spouse on a planned date? If it’s more than two weeks ago, you might be curious about why. As a marriage therapist, I often hear a variety of reasons for spouses not dating such as lack of money, time, and similar interests? Just wondering if those reasons stopped you BEFORE marriage? Ouch!

The Loss of Family Identity

What is family identity? It is the proud feeling that “we” are a unit. We love and support one another. We have fun together. We play games. We work hard. We as parents train and pass on our values to our children. It is during all of these “we” times that family identity is built. A wise person once said, “Peer pressure is only as strong as family identity is weak.” Family identity is essential to protecting your children from the pressure to be involved in activities outside of your family’s value system.

Family identity cannot be built without TIME. School-age children are away from their home 40+ hours per week. During this time, another person(s) is placing their values in your children. Then if you add 2 – 3 nights of sports, music or dance, one might wonder where you will find the time to train your children in your values or honestly just have fun with them. Home school parents are NOT exempt just because having your kids are in your home all day makes it even easier to be child-centered and not prioritize your spouse or marriage! (Just ask me, I lived it!)

Signs of child-centered parenting:
  • Infrequent or no dating by parents
  • Exhausted parents and anxious children
  • Little conversation about anything except the children’s events
  • Parents’ conversations are often and usually interrupted by children
  • Husband or wife would rather spend time with the children than their spouse
  • Needs of spouse are less important than the needs of the child
  • One or both spouses receive their emotional support from the kids instead of the spouse
  • Difficulty getting normal chores finished around the house

IF CHILD-CENTERED PARENTING sounds AWFUL–What is the answer?

The answer is SIMPLE but NOT easy.  Adjust your beliefs; adjust your actions.

Adjust your beliefs:

Although the marriage relationship is more work, your relationship with your spouse is more rewarding than your relationship with your children. OK…I can hear some of you laughing out loud right now and saying, “You certainly don’t know my spouse!”

Well…if it is not more rewarding right now maybe it is because your spouse is last on your list. [PAUSE AND BE CURIOUS] Could it be that there is never money left after the children’s events for dates, special gifts, cards, and other items that show that you care? Or you are just too exhausted at the end of the kid’s events for a great sexual encounter?

Adjust your actions:

  • Call your spouse right now and ask them out on a date. [PAUSE] Seriously, do NOT read any further before making that call.
  • Spend the first 15 minutes after work with your spouse asking about their day. Train the children not to interrupt. Find special activities for the children during this important time.
  • Scale the children’s activities back for the next season to one extra-curricular activity per child.
  • Tell your children that your spouse is more important than them because you are planning to be married WAY after the children have moved out!
  • At all times, honor your spouse in speech and action but especially IN FRONT of your children.

My desire is that your family love and honor one another. If you have any trouble adjusting your beliefs or actions, come for a season of family or marriage counseling. I would be honored to help your family have amazing relationships!

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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How Fear Makes You Selfish


Couple Fighting

We live in a day and age where if you have a good reason for what you are doing, especially if it involves your own hurt or fear, it’s okay.  The sensitive thing for others to do is to try to really understand where you are coming from.  If they do, what you have done will make sense and not be harmful.  If they don’t make efforts to “understand” you or don’t agree with your actions, they are judgmental.

In practice, operating this way in relationship is like swinging a sledge hammer at the people around you and then being upset when they complain about you hurting them.  After all, if you weren’t so afraid, you wouldn’t need to swing a hammer at them to begin with.  It’s called lashing out from the victim position, and it’s a prime example of selfishness driven by fear in relationship.  Let’s take a look at an example of a couple dealing with this problem.

Setting: Marital therapy session. Jim and Sarah have come to counseling to sort through a variety of relational issues.  Today, Jim has come in really upset. He doesn’t believe Sarah is making the relationship a priority and it is consuming his thoughts.

Jim:  I am only upset because she is not spending enough time with me and the kids.  I mean, I am her husband, we are supposed to have a relationship!

Therapist: Okay Jim, sounds like you are really bothered by this.  Why don’t you tell me about what happened that got you thinking about this problem.

Jim:  It’s not what happened, it’s what keeps happening!  Sarah does what Sarah wants to do, that’s it!  She doesn’t think of me or our children.  I have sought help from trusted friends and our pastor to see if I am out of line, and they all agree she is hurting the relationship.

Sarah (As Jim talks, she sits quietly, not making eye contact.  She looks sad and like she does not agree, but doesn’t dare challenge him.  After all, last time she took that chance, he made her pay by lecturing her about it for an hour and then not talking to her for the next 3 days.  The kids kept asking her what was wrong with dad.)

Therapist:  Jim, I really want to be able to understand where you are at, but when you speak in generalities it’s hard to do that.  Could you tell me about a specific time recently where this has occurred?

Jim: Sure, that’s easy.  About three months ago, she was talking to some of her girlfriends at church about our marriage.  Sarah calls it getting support, but I call it gossip.  She tells them about problems we are having and makes me look like a bad guy!

Sarah; (speaks up for the first time): I told them we were having issues, not you specifically.  I told them I knew I was a part of what wasn’t working.

Jim: (continues talking as if he has not heard Sarah):  With these women knowing about our stuff, I feel judged all the time.  I told Sarah how badly this hurts me, but she simply doesn’t care!

Therapist: Jim I am curious how you know what your wife is feeling? Can you read her mind?

Jim (annoyed ): It’s obvious.  She isn’t changing.

Therapist: What is it she is supposed to change?

Jim:  I told her I want us to associate with a different group of friends.  We go to a large church and there are a lot of great people to connect with.  It shouldn’t be an issue for her to set some healthy boundaries with those women and move on.  It is time she decided whether her husband is a priority or these friends! (Jim ends his statement triumphantly, sounding like a man who has made a definitive argument, invulnerable to challenge).

Therapist: Jim, I wonder, do you think Sarah feels cared for right now?

Jim: (taken aback by the question): What?

Therapist: Do you think Sarah feels like you care about her right now?

Jim: I love her, she knows that.

Therapist: That wasn’t my question, Jim.  I am not asking you if you love her.  I am asking if you think she feels cared for right now.

Jim: I guess so . . .  I mean I hope so.

Therapist: Sarah, I am curious if, while Jim has been talking, if you have felt cared for?

Sarah: (Tears forming in her eyes): No, no. . .

Therapist: Jim, that sounds like a real problem to me.

Jim: Well, you asked me what is bothering me, and I told you.  I guess I should just keep it to myself.

Therapist: No, Jim, that sounds like a terrible option.  Instead, I think we need to define this problem better.  What are you afraid of in this situation?  What ultimately causes you discomfort?

Jim: Well, two things I guess.  First, I am afraid of what others will think of me.  Those women probably look down on me and I just can’t stand the thought of that.  Second, my wife is choosing her friends over me.

Therapist: I like that you have identified your fear of how others will think of you.  However, that second statement about your wife choosing her friends over you, I am not sure that’s true.  It’s the story you are telling yourself about what is going on.

Jim: Then what am I afraid of?

Therapist: Jim, I don’t want to disrespect you by assuming I can read your mind, so I will just give my best guess.  I think you might be fearful of what others would know about you because you have shame about yourself.  To deal with this, you try and control very carefully what others know about you and Sarah broke the rules.

Jim: What rules?

Therapist: She is not supposed to tell others things you do not want them to know.  Unfortunately, she has and you have to do damage control.  To help you not feel your own fear and discomfort, you want her to distance herself from her friends.  She doesn’t want to do that, so you set it up as a choice between you or them.  It plays into your hand because she can either choose you and leave her friends or be a wife who is not really committed to her marriage and family.

Jim: Wow.  That sounds really bad.

Therapist: Yes.  Does it sound crazy or far fetched?

Jim: (looking a bit sheepish): No, not really.

Therapist: How would you describe what you are doing?

Jim: It’s really manipulative & selfish.

Therapist: Bingo.

Was that painful to read?  Every time I sit with a couple like this, my heart hurts for the “Sarah” in the room.  It’s critical the fear of the partner be exposed, along with his selfish means of dealing with it.  My experience is sinful behavior often has roots in people’s fear. It’s why people feel justified in what they are saying and doing to their spouse. After all, if others understood what they have to deal with, what they are doing to their spouse will be seen as reasonable.

It isn’t.  It never is.  We must all learn to keep close watch on our own fears, turning them over to the Lord regularly. Failure to do this makes sin attractive, as it offers a corrupt solution to our problem. The sin response is to focus on our fear and the intentions we have, while ignoring the other person’s heart.

In other words, people spend all their time explaining and justifying their destructive actions while never acknowledging the impact on others of what they are doing. It’s especially devastating in the context of a marriage or family. We are all faced with the problem of fear and have a choice about what we will do with itChoose well.

If you or someone you know is struggling with fear, there is help. At The Relationship Center, we have skilled counselors experienced in helping.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling
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