The goal of marital counseling (and marriage)

David Murray:

The main question most people ask in marriage relationships today is, “What can I get out of it?” Especially, “What sex can I get out of it?”

And when the investment of time, money, emotion, and sexual energy does not pay off as expected?


And the search for a better return from someone else. Someone else who’ll fit into my life better. Someone else who won’t take so much of my time and money. Someone else who will fill me rather than drain me.

But if everyone’s trying to get more than they give, no one’s going to be happy and marriages are doomed to premature and painful endings.

In contrast, the Bible says that the most important question in marriage is not, “What can I get?” but “What can I give?”

Read the rest at The Most Important Question in Marriage (HeadHeartHand Blog).

His comments got me to thinking about how I counsel couples in marital crisis.  One of the first things I tell a couple is, “My goal is not to save your marriage.  My goal is to help you, husband, walk with Christ.  And my goal is to help you, wife, walk with Christ.  And if you, husband or wife, walk with Christ, even if your spouse does not, you will be satisfied in Christ and faithful to Him.  And if you both walk with Christ, then your marriage will move toward restoration.”

One problem with this approach is that while the intent is right — to help both members of the marriage be faithful to Christ — it is often difficult to determine when they are walking with Christ.  Self-righteous attitudes keep both parties from seeing how their attitudes are working against the marriage and that they are not progressing as well as they think they are progressing.  I have frequently asked myself, “how can I expose this person’s self-righteousness?”

So I think a better way to articulate my goal in marriage counseling is to say, “My goal is not to save your marriage.  My goal is to help you walk with Christ…and one way to know that you are walking with Christ is when you are selfless in your giving and service of your mate.”  Consider some of these heart-revealing questions by Murray:

  • When you argue: What can I give up to resolve this?
  • When you’ve hurt one another: What apology can I give to heal this?
  • When on vacation: What can I give to make his vacation better?
  • When in bed: What can I give to enhance his/her enjoyment of physical intimacy?
  • When budgeting: What can I give up this month to give her more spending money?
  • When talking: How can I give her more of a listening ear?
  • When leading: How can I serve her better in my leadership?
  • When submitting: How can I give him more respect when I disagree with his decisions?

His conclusion is particularly helpful:

Give your mind, your heart, your eyes, your hands, your body, your money. Give financially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, sexually, and spiritually. Give yourself, your whole self, away. And if we believe the Bible rather than our instincts and our culture, we will be more blessed in that giving than in all the getting we can imagine (Acts 20:35).

The great aim of all this marital giving is that eventually we each give so much of self away, that each has all of the other, and the two become one; we lose so much independence, and become so inter-dependent that we become “one flesh” in every way.

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