February, the month of love, has finally arrived! For many, it is a time filled with excitement, admiration and a chance for them to show love to the “object of their affection”. For others, this month can be a reminder of difficulties that they make be experiencing in their marital life. Couples that are currently going through a difficult time in their marriage may feel a twinge of resentment and frustration as the “lover’s holiday”, approaches – asking themselves, ‘Where has the love gone in my relationship?” For anyone who is in the midst of turmoil in their relationship and is considering throwing in the towel, this article is written specifically for you. It is written in the hopes of encouraging you, educating you and letting you know that you are not alone and that there is always hope. Step out in faith, open your heart and take a journey as we listen to a trained professionals wisdom on a topic that many people are struggling with – difficulty in marriage.
Hurting Marriages – A Christian Psychologist’s Point of View
Rachel Rowitt is no stranger to married couples that are experiencing a tumultuous time in their relationship – in fact, helping couples is one of her specialties. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and member of the American Association for Christian Counselors, Rowitt provides faith based counseling that uses Biblical principles to address the mind, body and spirit. In regards to rocky relationships, Rowitt explains how often times most trials and tribulations in people’s lives occur when they take their eyes off of God and focus solely on their spouse. “When we focus solely on our spouse to fulfill our needs, we begin to lack empathy for them. Instead of being supportive or validating the other person, we become more demanding of them and push them away even more,” shares Rowitt. “What I see in a lot of relationships is that couples tend not to listen to one another – their communication has completely broken down. Men, for example will try to fix things – it’s in their nature. But most women don’t need a “fix”; they want to be heard. And sometimes there are things in life that can’t be fixed or changed -that’s where God comes in. We can’t expect our spouse to fulfill every need for us, it’s humanely impossible- and by doing that, we don’t have our focus on God 100%, forgetting that God is in control of everything.”
Rowitt shares how most couples tend to fight about one of three topics: finances, communication or sex. “Sometimes you can’t place the issue in one of these three areas but you can always boil it down to something. A lot of arguments and issues arising in a marriage tend to come from someone not being empathetic, not trusting God in all things, couples not validating one another and looking solely to that other person for your security,” she tells. “Often times, people end up fighting in their relationship, but it’s not necessarily the present they are fighting about. It’s actually about the past. Sometimes someone has experienced a horrible relationship in the past – maybe cheating, lying or abuse. Now, they are in the new relationship with a great person, but once they feel a little unsafe, they go through the repertoire of what has happened in the past. They aren’t resolving their past issues and now, they are bringing these issues into the new relationship. Counseling can be helpful in a situation like this.”
Who Are We Fighting Against?
“One main thing I try to relay to each couple is that they need to know that it is not flesh and blood that we fight against – its spiritual warfare. The Enemy gets a stronghold on you through your past relationships – he will infiltrate you and tell you lies. Fear is one of the main ways that the Enemy gets a hold of a person and then he paralyzes them. They end up walking around in a fearful state and this fear begins to erode everything around them – now, the Enemy has them exactly where he wants them,” adds Rowitt.
So, what does she suggest for couples who are currently going through struggles in their marriage? “First I direct couples to several books on the subject – including Boundaries in Marriage, by Cloud and Townsend; The Marriage Builder, by Dr. Larry Crabb and The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Next, I would ask them what their devotional and prayer life is like on a daily basis. I find that most couples rarely do devotionals together, and they hardly pray with one another. Lacking in these areas shows that the couples aren’t really connected,” she explains. “For the most part, men really aren’t talkers, but women connect through conversation – it makes them feel safe and secure. I am not saying that the husband has to spend all day talking, but even just a little bit of uninterrupted time- a devotional and maybe some time afterwards together – it will help keep couples connected to one another. I also think it is very important to pray with and over your spouse every single day. You have to keep God involved on a regular basis and it should be the couple coming together collectively to do these things, not one constantly pushing or forcing the other person to do it. ”
The Importance of Forgiveness and Team Playing
Rowitt is not surprised when she sees couples come in together yet they seem to be playing on opposite teams. “I tell them that they are in this together, they are not supposed to be on opposing teams. When this is the case, our goal is to get them playing on the same team, to unite them,” explains Rowitt.
In regards to arguments, Rowitt suggests that when tensions build and arguments get out of control, it is very important to stop, pray and try your best to not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26). “I tell couples that they should each examine what happened during the argument, what they were responsible for doing, what they could have done differently, and what can be done next time to prevent the situation,” she shares. “Each spouse needs to be responsible for their participation in the ways things have gone wrong. People need to take ownership – not blame the spouse for everything and to not play the game of who is right versus who is wrong.”
Another important topic in all relationships: Forgiveness. “Forgiveness is not forgetting…but forgiveness is not bringing up the subject over and over again; you don’t use it again as your ammo in the present argument. When someone truly forgives, they move forward and they don’t keep resorting back to using past ammunition. Now it can be difficult to continue to forgive someone who refuses to change their behavior – this is where counseling should be taken into consideration for both parties,” she tells. “Couples need to also have an understanding of what forgiveness is. When we choose to forgive someone, we are releasing them of a debt. They owe you something – whether it is love, respect, acceptance, etc. With true forgiveness, we no longer hold that grudge against them and we release them of any debt they owed us. Christ gave us the perfect example of forgiveness by dying on the cross. We were forgiven of all things – all debts, all sin – through Him – so, why are we withholding this same forgiveness from our loved ones?”
Back to the Basics
Lastly, Rowitts wants all couples to have three main building blocks to their marriage – Faith, trust and hope. “I share Proverbs 3: 5-6 with my couples – to trust in the Lord with all of your heart. I think God is so important – it is Him that we need to trust, not just our spouse. When all else fails in a relationship, couples need to go back to the beginning as brothers and sisters in Christ. I tell couples that see me to treat each other as if they were always in the presence of the Holy Spirit – because they are! If the person you are with is a child of God, well, then you are in His presence and your actions should reflect you being in the presence of a child of God and in the presence of the Holy Spirit,” she adds.
For more information on Rachel Rowitt, please visit: www.westbrowardcounseling.com/therapists/Rachel-Rowitt-LMHC.aspx or call 954-358-5788.