As a marriage counseling professional, it is my pleasure and privilege to work with couples on a regular basis. Here are two amazing stories of how Christian marriage counseling really worked.
Please Note: Names have been changed to protect the redeemed.
The Bob and Sandy Story
Bob and Sandy were in the midst of a very tumultuous time in their marriage. They had met when they were in their early twenties and had gotten married after roughly three years of dating. While they were dating they broke up a couple of times. During one of these times, Bob had a short fling with another woman.
This created feelings of mistrust on Sandy’s part, but Bob assured her that it was nothing serious. Bob’s relationship with another woman only lasted for a couple months. Bob and Sandy continued with their romance and they got married soon after Bob had had this relationship with another woman.
They were married for about a year and Bob began to struggle with feelings of insecurity and unhappiness in the marriage. Bob was restless for a little more excitement in the relationship and wandered into the dangerous territory of having an affair with another woman.
He lost interest in his wife. He reported in counseling that stress from his firefighter profession and long hours at work were contributing factors. Bob and Sandy also live in a fairly rural area and often spend time by themselves.
Bob also shared with me that he tends to want attention from other women when his relationship with his wife gets stressful or conflicted. Bob did not hide the infidelity from his wife and confessed to having had relations with a former girlfriend about three months before they came to see me.
The news of infidelity devastated Sandy, who developed a tremendous distrust of Bob, but she still loved her husband and decided to stay in the marriage and work on these issues together with him. Sandy knew that things could get better and was committed to working through this turmoil in their relationship.
For Bob’s part, he knew that he had sinned. His feelings of guilt began to overwhelm him whenever he would talk to Sandy about the affair. He promised his wife that this would not happen ever again, but Sandy’s mistrust of Bob only increased.
She would periodically check his phone for calls from other women and monitored his call log to keep him accountable. She also wanted to know where he was, in general, during the day. Even with all these precautions in place, Sandy’s distrust of Bob continued to grow. After Bob’s confession and repentance over the affair, they slowly began to spend more time together, but their relationship just became more conflicted.
Bob and Sandy also started to grow more disconnected. The disconnection resulted in reduced emotional and physical intimacy for Sandy and Bob. Sandy started feeling more and more depressed during this time, and her feelings of betrayal and insecurity increased despite her forgiveness of Bob’s infidelity.
Bob primary issue during this time was immense guilt, confusion, and disconnection. Due to these issues, they decided to seek Christian Counseling to help them work through their interpersonal conflicts.
After meeting with them for marriage counseling, it became apparent that working on rebuilding trust was going to be paramount to helping them become “one” again in Christ through their marriage. In working with them I employed techniques for open communication about Sandy’s mistrust of Bob’s past behavior and her doubts regarding Bob’s integrity in the present.
A major breakthrough occurred when Bob called me by accident with another phone number. It was discovered through time and subsequent conversations that this number represented one of the three phones that Bob had and one that he does not use much.
Bob explained what happened and that he did not use a secret phone to contact women. I shared that in my professional opinion, I felt that Bob was telling the truth. An objective third party can make a difference in understanding what is true and trustworthy in the marital relationship.
Sandy decided she need to trust Bob at some level, otherwise, the relationship would always be under suspicion. She finally came to realize through counseling that she could not verify fully every single situation that Bob reported.
As we have faith in the Lord which is not a blind faith, so we have to place our faith in our spouse unless it has been verified otherwise. This resolution to trust created the space to start working on their relationship and rebuild the romance they had lost. Bob was more cognizant of Sandy’s feelings and was increasingly willing to be held accountable if needed, as he became more engaged in his relationship with Sandy.
Bob was able to give Sandy more time to spend with her parents in another part of the country and that increased Sandy’s feelings of love and belonging in the long term. Initially, it was only Bob that was interested in attending church weekly and digging into the Bible, while Sandy was merely open to the Christian faith but reported not being religious.
As marriage counseling moved along, they began to see how Christ’s love and guidance were more in their lives. Sandy and Bob now attend church regularly and seek the Lord’s wisdom in their relationship with each other and with their community.
The Aaliyah and Caleb Story
Caleb and Aaliyah had on the outside a very good relationship. They had three children. Two of their children were approaching their tween years and they also had a 14-month-old infant. Aaliyah had a very successful career in healthcare and Caleb was going to school working on a master’s degree.
They were parenting professionals and attended church regularly. Yet, there was quite a lot of disconnect in their relationship. Aaliyah worked a lot of late nights and Caleb would work on his degree during the day. They had trouble connecting and having meaningful conversations and “check-ins” regarding what was going in their hearts and in their relationship with the Lord.
The busyness of school for Caleb and career for Aaliyah plus all their parenting duties lead to an inevitable lack of meaningful communication over a period of more than two years. During this time, Caleb was not having meaningful physical intimacy with Aaliyah and started using some of his alone time satisfying those needs.
These sexual needs were satisfied at first through visits to bikini barista places. As these visits, proved unsatisfying after a short period, Caleb turned to massage parlors that specialized in sexual massages. He also reported having previous encounters with women for sex without Aaliyah’s knowledge.
Caleb eventually confessed about these sexual encounters to Aaliyah. He sought a therapist to receive individual counseling to work through sexual addictions issues. As Aaliyah became more aware of Caleb issues, she started to hold him accountable for his time and whereabouts.
She paid more attention to Caleb’s friendships and interactions with people outside the family unit. Her worry about Caleb’s extra-marital relationships caused feelings of anxiety and depression to manifest. Feelings of alienation for Caleb and feelings of betrayal for Aaliyah started to wreak havoc in their conversations.
They began to fight frequently and feelings of wanting to get divorced began to grow. Caleb and Aaliyah decided to try marital counseling to work through their issues rather than get a divorce. They had witnessed many of their close circle of friends of eight couples get divorced and they were the only ones that had not yet gotten a divorce.
They wanted desperately to avoid the deep wound that divorce inflicts and to seek the Lord and do his will through their marriage. They decided to seek my expertise as a Christian Counselor to change their path from one racing towards divorce to a path towards marital oneness through Christ.
Caleb and Aaliyah wanted to work on their communication issues. They did not understand each other’s internal worlds or perspectives. Aaliyah continued to believe that Caleb had made very little progress with his sexual addiction in working with his individual counselor.
Within marriage counseling, I began by bridging the conversation regarding Aaliyah’s feelings of mistrust towards Caleb. I asked them to speak about their feelings, openly trusting that a neutral third person was listening intently and seeking to gain a full understanding of their feelings.
Often in relationships, both partners need space and time to be truly heard without reactionary judgment. I cultivated s non-judgmental space in their lives.
Aaliyah shared that she was still afraid that Caleb would cheat on her or succumb to his sexual addiction in other ways. Caleb opened up regarding his shame in visiting women to obtain sexual massages. He reported not wanting to go down that the path of sexual promiscuity and wanting to honor and deeply reconnect with his wife.
The distance from his wife was contributing to feelings of discontentment and depression in Caleb’s life. Aaliyah, through counseling, heard Caleb’s honest and sincere desire to reconnect and realized that he was hurting just as much as she was in the relationship. Open communication without interpretation was working.
At the end of this particular session, Aaliyah knew that she had to give up the seeming control she wanted to have over Caleb’s behavior. Over the course of the next few sessions, she began to pray for Caleb and their marriage.
Her enhanced prayer life enabled her to have more clarity and understanding of Caleb’s deeper feelings. Aaliyah learned to understand the sources of her irritations and feelings of mistrust by seeking the Lord more than she wanted her husband to answer all her questions.
We began to build on validating each other’s feelings and move towards providing words of positive affirmation when resentment from past sin was forgiven on Aaliyah’s part and when Caleb was able to not distance himself because he was irritated with Aaliyah’s twenty-questions routine.
Caleb learned to understand her. Caleb had neglected speaking God’s word into the lives of his wife and children. He had stopped praying and spending time in God’s word both during and after his sexual addiction.
Caleb started to take spiritual leadership again in the family by restarting family prayer, marital prayer, and devotional time.
Talking about what God was teaching them both was a lively part of their morning rituals and became another open door for honest communication. As a Christian Counselor, I was glad that they were seeking wisdom from the Lord through their devotional time together.
It became clear that God was asking them to take their marital conflict to him in prayer and to treat it as a battle against the enemy of their souls. They focused on developing the fruits of the spirit. The Christian counseling process focused on developing these traits by practicing the fruits of the spirit in and outside the session.
I love how The Message paraphrase of the Bible expounds the practical side of the Fruit of the Spirit:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. – Galatians 5:22-23
The Lord was working to develop holiness in Caleb and Aaliyah’s lives and it made a huge difference in their marriage. Their commitment to weekly prayer began to pay dividends as they reported to me successful conflict resolution. They learned to exert self-control over their own thoughts and actions.
They practiced taking turns, active listening, and willingness to hear the heart of what their spouse was teaching them. They spent time praying together. They employed touch in keeping their relationship close. They got excited about planning fun activities like a hotel/spa vacation just for two.
It was a joy to see this couple rebuild trust and thrive in their relationship again. The Lord provided a job opportunity overseas that allowed them to save money and provide a world-class education to their children, granting the desire of their heart that their children would have experience living outside the United States.
It brings me great joy in the Lord, as I think about how Christian marriage counseling changed a couple that was on the brink of divorce and moved them towards a marriage built on holiness and mutual sacrifice.
“Follow Me,” courtesy of Yoann Boyer, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Photo shoot,” courtesy of Alex Holyoake, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Precarious,” Courtesy of Bekir Donmez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Come with me,” Courtesy of Everton Vila, Unsplash.com, CC0 License