Marriage Counseling with Only One Person (Aaron Sironi and Lauren Whitman): Pre-Conference Options







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Marriage Counseling with Only One Spouse 

 

Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation Lauren Whitman & Aaron Sironi 

 

(There is a spectrum of perspectives in the marriage counseling field on this question as illustrated by two leaders.): Susan Heitler, Ph.D. (Psychology Today) 

 

Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W. (Divorce Busting) 

 

5 Reasons Marriage Counseling Occurs with Just One Spouse 

 
  1.  

    The person is in individual counseling but not primarily to work on the marriage...and yet the marriage will eventually come up. 

     
  2.  

    Thespousepreferstocomealone.Understandingthisperson’smotivationtocomealoneis crucial because it may be a significant part of the relational problems. 

     
  3.  

    Thecounselor/pastorpreferstoworkwithoneperson. 

     
  4.  

    Conjoint marriage counseling is fundamentally unwise in marital situations when any one of the “ 4-A’s ” of marital crisis are active: 

     
 

Agendas (commitments significantly differ) Affairs/Adultery
 
Addiction
 
Abuse 

 

5. Theabsentspouserefusestocome. 

 
 
      
 
 

Question: Can we GENUINELY HELP A MARRIAGE WITH ACCESS TO ONLY ONE PERSON

 
 
     
 
 
 

Reality: a significant percentage (maybe a majority) of marriage counseling happens in 1 on 1 conversations (whether in more formal counseling or in everyday conversations). We must grow in wisdom as the church. 

 
 
   
          
 
 

 
 
 
 
      
 
 

Question: When the absent spouse refuses to participate in marriage counseling, WHAT IS THE HOPE THAT WE HOLD OUT TO THE PRESENT SPOUSE

 
 
        
 
 

Reality: when a spouse confides in you about marriage problems, it is very likely that this is a warning sign that his/her marriage is in serious jeopardy. 

 

Reality: It’s likely that the person confiding in you is spiritually desolate (hopelessness & fear) as well. 

 

QUESTION: How do we hold out hope—genuine, bedrock hope—that encourages individuals who live without reciprocated/mutual love and care in their marriages? [Living out of passages that portray 

 
 
 
 
 

stark contrasts in marital love.

 
 
 

“GOD HAS BEAUTIFUL PURPOSES FOR DIFFICULT MARRIAGES” “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” 

 
 
            
 
 

Ephesians 5:25 

 
 
      
 
 
  •  

    There’s something mysteriously powerful that God does when a husband genuinely loves his wife in the midst of his wife not being very loving, lovable, or lovely. 

     
  •  

    Christ’s love is most visible (put on display) when there’s a stark contrast. 

     
  •  

    At the center of a husband’s love is a suffering/crucified Christ. 

     
  •  

    Peter addresses wives who are in troubled marriages and who may live with husbands who “do not obey the word.” 

     
  •  

    Sarah and Abraham’s marriage is the example of the troubled marriage. 

     
  •  

    Sarah sacrificially suffers in an effort to save her husband’s life. 

     
  •  

    Sarah loves her husband in a Christ-like way that is an apologetic witness to Abraham and to the (unbelieving/skeptical) watching world. 

     
 
 
            
 
 

1st Peter 3:1-6 

 
 
      
 
  
 
 

Table Discussion: 

 
 
   
 
 
 
 
  •  

    Which of these 5-reasons for why individual counseling for marriage issues occurs have you encountered? 

     
  •  

    How have they complicated your counseling? 

     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Disadvantages & pitfalls of counseling one spouse
 
Disadvantages: Trying to help a marriage with access to one spouse renders you unable to: 

 
  •  

    witness conflicts in real time 

     
  •  

    understand how each provokes and tempts the other to sin 

     
  •  

    address differences in each spouse’s view of the central problems 

     
  •  

    encourage shared responsibility for growth 

     
  •  

    challenge and transform cynical views of the other’s desires and motives 

     
  •  

    pray together 

     

    Infinity Loop—an example of a couple, Carla and Ben, and what you can discover with them in conjoint marriage counseling. 

     
 
 
  
 
 

 
 
 
 
  
 
 

4 Pitfalls:
 
1. InaccurateAssessment/UnderstandingoftheMarriage 

 
 
  
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2. The Log in Your Counselee’s Eye Grows 

 
 
  
 
 

3. The Counselor is Inducted into the Counselee’s [incomplete] Perspective 

 
 
  
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

4. The Intimate Conversations with the counselor Fills a Relational Void, which Demotivates the counselee to Make Changes in the Marital Relationship 

 
 
  
 
  
 
 

Table Discussion: 

 
 
   
 
 
 
 
  •  

    How do you see Lauren trying to gain access to the areas that she and the counselee can’t see? 

     
  •  

    What areas does this gentleman start to fill in? 

     
 
 
  
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Counseling Goals from 1st Corinthians 8-10 

 

Buying/Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols A Framing Lens for Marriage Counseling w/Individuals 

 

Contextual Notes: the “knowledge” group vs. the “weaker-conscience” group of believers 

 

The Corinthians want Paul to weigh in on the substantive issue. But Paul is not content with giving them simple rules and straight forward advice (dos and don’ts). 

 

Help this person think through his/her marriage relationship and what it means to love and serve the Lord in that relationship. 

 

Paul doesn’t take sides but deeply identifies with the weaker-conscience group and sees them each as having vulnerabilities and temptations

 
  •  

    What would it look like deeply to identify with the absent spouse (our instinct is to do the reverse) without alienating the person in counseling? 

     
  •  

    How can we identify both spouses’ temptations/vulnerabilities?
     
    Explore & Consider the Absent Spouse’s Perspective/Experience & Love: 

     

    (This is where Paul spends the majority of his energies & time.) 

     
 
  •  

    How do we cause the other spouse to “stumble” (stumbling block rule) 

     
  •  

    What does moving outward in constructive love look like (advantaging/blessing) 

     
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Table Exercise: 

 

• Take a moment to read the following (4) groupings of questions. Hone in on 1 group and apply these questions to your own marriage or closest relationship. The goal is not only to consider the other person’s perspective and experience of being in close relationship with you, but foster humility, wisdom, and love. 

 
 
  
 
 
 

Big Picture Questions: Here we’re trying to access “below the line” experiences, emotions, and desires (for the absent spouse) 

 
  •  

    “If your wife were here, how would she describe the main issues in your relationship? Do you agree with her?” 

     
  •  

    “What would your husband say causes the difficulties between you? Is there truth in what he experiences?” 

     
  •  

    “What would your wife say it’s like to be married to you?” 

     
  •  

    “What would your husband say it feels like to be married to you?” 

     
  •  

    “What do you think your wife’s ideal husband would be like?” 

     

    Conflict Specific Questions: Here, we’re trying to access the interaction b/n spouses: the ways this person tempts, provokes, and “causes” the other to sin. 

     
 
  •  

    “When there’s a problem/conflict, how does your husband come across to you? How do you think you come across to him at these moments?” 

     
  •  

    “Can you think about what you might do that tempts your wife to criticize you? What do you think it’s like for her when you become silent or defensive?” 

     
  •  

    “How proactive are you in being transparent—opening your heart wide by sharing your intimate (harder to share) thoughts and feelings with your spouse?” 

     
  •  

    “In what ways do you pursue your spouse?” 

     
  •  

    “What are the ways that you may make it harder, or even unsafe, for your husband to share his 

     

    emotions more vulnerably with you?” 

     
  •  

    “Over the years, what regrets do you have about how you’ve interacted with your spouse when 

     

    there have been issues between you?” 

     
  •  

    “What is your role in the dynamics you’re describing?” 

     

    Additional Conflict Questions: 

     
 
  •  

    “Walk me through a recent argument with a play-by-play of what both you and your spouse said and did.” 

     
  •  

    “If your spouse were here, what might he or she add or take away from how you just described what happened?” 

     
  •  

    “Think of a time when things went downhill quickly. What did you do? What did your spouse do?” 

     
  •  

    “What would your spouse say you’ve done in the past that caused a conflict to escalate?” 

     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pursuing Reconciliation Questions: 

 
  •  

    “Think of a time when things could have gone downhill quickly, but you did something that calmed down the quarrel. What did you do?” (Prov 15:1) 

     
  •  

    “What did your spouse do to keep a conversation from blowing up? How was that different than normal?” 

     
  •  

    “What would your spouse say is the most important thing you could do differently during a conflict that would help both of you navigate your way through it better?” 

     
  •  

    “Ideally, when does your spouse prefer to resolve/reconcile a conflict? Does he/she prefer to deal with it immediately or after having a few minutes to calm down?” 

     
  •  

    “What do you do that brings you closer together or drives you further apart when you argue?” (E.g., do timeouts calm you down or escalate conflict?) 

     

    o “If you press your spouse to resolve an issue too quickly, what is the impact on your relationship? 

     

    o “If you wait too long to resolve a problem, what is the impact on your relationship?” Paul’s Summary (1st Corinthians 10:31-11:1) 

     
 
 
 
   
 
 

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 

 
 
   
 
 
 

 
 
 
  



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What is the role of self disclosure in dating? 센터원장 쪽지보내기 메일보내기 자기소개 아이디로 검색 전체게시물 13 548
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Preaching or Counseling? 센터원장 쪽지보내기 메일보내기 자기소개 아이디로 검색 전체게시물 11 525
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When a Child Says "I don't know" 센터원장 쪽지보내기 메일보내기 자기소개 아이디로 검색 전체게시물 14 635
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Becoming a Wilderness Companion 센터원장 쪽지보내기 메일보내기 자기소개 아이디로 검색 전체게시물 12 569
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Scripture's "Top Two" List 센터원장 쪽지보내기 메일보내기 자기소개 아이디로 검색 전체게시물 12 480
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