I have been asked to supply some additional thoughts about expectations – specifically about disappointment … after what I have written about
expectations, a good friend wanted me to talk about how to handle being disappointed and how to handle being a disappointment.
However, I didn’t have time to put it together, so Lord willing, that is what next week’s article will be about…
Instead, I had already started to write about marriage counseling… so here are some of my thoughts on that… I hope you aren’t too
I often get asked when it is time for marriage counseling.
Marriage counseling is essentially when the “client” in counseling isn’t a person, but a marriage.
Obviously, there are going to be two people who each have to grow and change if the marriage can be matured, but the basis of success is really the growth of the relationship system itself. There are a lot of theories and views on this, but this article isnt the time.
First, let’s remind ourselves of what marriage is like so we can know when it needs help……
Too many couples think that in getting married, their situation is like climbing together into a canoe to drift downstream together
in matrimonial bliss.
However, anyone who has been married knows that the responsibilities of life, and the pace of the world, and the results of the fall of our race work against the intimacy and partnership of marriage…
Not for it.
So, realistically, marriage is more like two people trying to paddle alongside one another, keeping their canoes close enough to touch… while trying to travel upstream.
Of course, sometimes the troubles we face are like serious rapids, and at other times they are more like placid waters… but even in the easier times, there is a constant pressure that pushes us back….
I am not pessimistic… and not even cynical. Maybe it seems like it, but I believe marriage is one the most powerful miracles God has accomplished…
I love being married and would not trade it, and I am married to an wonderful woman in a great marriage… so don’t hear me being negative.
But I am realistic and think it is important to be realistic about the fact that the life and time can work against our marriages.
Maybe another analogy can better communicate the truth of the hope and power of marriage…
Imagine if you inherited a beautiful garden that had been well tended by another…
Marriage is something like that. It is God’s grace that we have the option to start marriage with a garden filled with fruit and flowers. (certainly not all do start this way, but the freedom to choose it is there)…
But even before the fall, gardens required effort. Remember, Adam was to tend the garden?
The “natural state” of a garden is weeds and death. Without intentional effort, a garden fades.
So it is with marriage.
Without intentional effort, marriages fade.
When a year goes by and the garden isn’t tended, you will come to the garden looking for the good things – fruit, flowers, etc. and there
will be a lot less than the year it had been tended.
Year two – pretty much nothing, right?
Year three – you enter a dry, dead fruitless garden looking for the good things and they aren’t there.
Have a nasty drought in there, and it may not take a few years to kill it. I hope you see some of the relational applications here.
The natural state of a garden – its untended state – is death.
Again, marriage is like that. The natural state (the state without the exertion of effort) is drift, division, and other words that we summarize when we use the word “divorce”.
Here are just a few recommendations for when it may be time to start seeking out marriage counseling :
1. When the drift has become ingrained, habitual, or you cannot figure out how to being the canoes back together.
2. When the marriage has become a standoff of two people unwilling to work the garden for the sake of the other one. If even one is unwilling to do this, counseling will probably be necessary.
3. When at least one spouse is unwilling or feels unable to recover from past hurts, resentments, unforgiveness, or oaths taken (“I will never let myself be hurt again” “I will never let him/her close enough to betray me again” “I will never put myself in a situation to be rejected again”)
4. When things have stagnated and your own attempts to create growth have failed.
5. When there is a bad enough shock to the system – relational poison, drought, or disease – and salvaging what you can and keeping
hope for the future intact is needed.
I think you catch the gist.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is another reason to seek marriage counseling that isn’t about avoiding death, but
merely about making life better. Much of this effect can be accomplished through other communities, and mentoring, and yet many people like to get professional help in taking an ok marriage and making it good, or a good marriage and making it great.
Naturally, marriage counselors love this – probably in the same way that Oncologists like getting patients who don’t have stage 4 cancer. The chances of helping people thrive isobviously better!
So, when your efforts at making things better don’t seem to be working… or when you find yourself or your spouse unable or unwilling to
even TRY to make it better, get some help.
Don’t wait too late… eventually cancer can become inoperable… I think all marriages can be saved and become great… but it sure gets a lot harder after bitterness and hopelessness has set in.
Men need to especially hear that last bit – if your wife thinks you need counseling, you do.
And, if you have the resources and the inclination, feel free to come in for ideas and reflections on how to take your marriage and make it better. Hopefully you are going to live there a long time, so make it as good as you can.
All those years in school and what I was really doing was learning gardening.