I am so excited to introduce to you a fellow local counselor who also has a passion￼ for marriage counseling from a faith based perspective. Kim Bowen, LPC regularly walks besides couples struggling￼ to decide if they will go the distance or give up. I love how she identifies some of the common ￼challenges to contentment in marriage below. ~ Michelle
Our Father loves us unconditionally, and we are called to love each other unconditionally, even when it’s difficult to do. One would think love would come easiest for those closest to us, like our spouses, right? But that isn’t always the case. According to divorce statistics released by the Barna Group, even among Believers, divorce rates hover around 33%.
My husband and I could have easily contributed to that percentage. Many years ago, I truly wanted out of my marriage. I knew how my husband needed to change, but I had little insight into my own areas of emotional immaturity. God used the trials of my marriage as fire to refine and mature me. It was painful, but God didn’t leave me alone. He stayed with me the entire time I was in the fire.
We grow through challenge
Challenging situations help us grow and be more like Him. For some of us, our marriage has been one of those challenges. As a professional marriage therapist, I’ve given a lot of thought as to why some couples really struggle, even to the point of divorce. If you take mental illness, addiction and abuse out of the equation, I think there are three basic reasons:
- Poor relationship skills – Marriage has a way of shining a spotlight on the areas within us that may require more work. Negotiating differences is a skill that must be learned and practiced.
- Emotional immaturity – We live in a world where we can see a lack of emotional maturity modeled everywhere – on television, in sports, and even in our politicians. Learning to regulate our emotions and not be reactive in times of stress or conflict means choosing to grow up emotionally. Fortunately, it’s never too late to “grow ourselves up.”
- Unrealistic expectations – Where do we get our road map for marriage? Our parents’ marriage? Our friends? The movies? Social media? Too often, I hear clients say, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” The reality is it IS hard. In Zechariah 13:9, God declares He’ll put His people “into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.” (ESV). I can think of no better training ground for this refinement than marriage, so long as we don’t walk away when things get tough.
One of the reasons I love my work so much is I get to help couples learn new skills and find growth and improvement in their marriage. I also get to be the encourager when they lose patience with themselves and slip back into old patterns. Slipping back is a normal part of the process change and finding yourself in a familiar painful cycle doesn’t mean you aren’t making meaningful progress.
Communication is the key
Communication is one area where I find many couples struggle. It is the lifeblood of any relationship, none more so than our marriage, and yet many of us do not dedicate specific time each day to reconnect with our significant other. When you make an effort to communicate, with God or your spouse, you’re showing you value that relationship. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle here, as many of us do, but I encourage you to be deliberate. Set aside time each day where you put away the remote control, the smart phone or any other distraction, and spend a few dedicated minutes just talking with your spouse. For other ideas on ways to connect with your spouse, you can check out my blog post on the subject. At least weekly, I encourage you to include God’s word in your time. Pray together, read the Bible, or do a couples Bible study. Invite God into your marriage and ask Him to refine and mature your relationship, knowing He will be there with you the entire time.
I would love to hear from you and how God has used your relationship to mold and refine you to be more like Him. Please feel free to leave me a comment below.
Adapted from The Love Joy Peace Workbook by Kim Bowen (2019 by Callisto).
The Love Joy Peace Workbook is a couples Bible study that encourages couples to spend time in the Word together. It is intended to be educational, inspirational, and experiential, combining scripture with exercises and teaching that Kim uses in her marriage-counseling practice to help couples heal and deepen their connection. It is a road map to a marriage full of love, joy, and peace – the way it should be.
Kim Bowen, LPC is the Owner and Founder of The Marriage Place, a faith-based, pro-marriage counseling and coaching practice located in Dallas, TX. Her personal mission is to change the way others view love and marriage. She is the author of The Love Joy Peace Workbook (Callisto), available on Amazon.com. Kim resides in Parker, TX with her beloved husband John, their two boys, and two rescue pups who each needed a second chance at love. You can find Kim on Facebook at @TheMarriagePlace or online at www.themarriageplace.com.