Tag Archives: marriage

Consider a gift for your pastor: A retreat!

Want to bless your pastor family this year? Consider giving the gift of a renewal retreat. If you can’t afford to cover the whole costs (see below), consider going in on the gift together with some of your friends.

Here’s what I’m talking about. A group of like-minded individuals meet on a regular basis to consider how to promote pastor renewal. Last year, we developed and ran a pastoral renewal retreat for pastors and spouses. It was successful and so we are planning a second retreat for April 26-28, 2011 (the week after Easter). The retreat runs 3 days and 2 nights in the Poconos  at the Haft. During the retreat couples will meet together, alone with a ministry mentor, and have time alone as they consider how to grow spiritually in the face of ministry challenges. We will cover issues such as discouragers, marriage enrichment, and renewal practices.

The cost to the ministry couple is $250. for room, board, and retreat. We’ll be posting registration materials but if you know think this is something you want to do or you know some couples who are interested, email me [pmonroeATbiblicalDOTedu] to get on a first ask list. There are only 7 couple slots available.


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Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, pastoral renewal, pastors and pastoring

Considering Marriage at Virginia Beach

In a couple of days I’ll be going to Virginia Beach to attend the CCEF conference on marriage. If you are in the area or going to the conference yourself do stop by the Biblical Seminary booth and say hello. We have info to show you on

  • new on-line courses next summer and fall
  • a summer class on forgiveness
  • an exciting (FREE) conference next March 17-19 dealing with sex trafficking and abuse and showcasing Diane Langberg and Bethany Hoang (IJM) that can be taken for credit (not free) or CEU.
  • information and even a discount for moving your completed CCEF DE courses into graduate accredited credits.

At the conference I’m especially interested in seeing what will be said on the topic of damaged relationships. Often we Christians paint the beautiful image of sacrificial, Christ-centered marriage. And we should–because too often we lose sight of the vision of what marriage is intended to be. But we ought also to address the issue of brokenness and how to live in the now when marriage does not seem to be working. We of all people ought to be the best at describing marital life when change isn’t forthcoming.

So, here’s a couple of conference session titles I’m most interested in

Thriving in a failure-t0-thrive marriage (Julie Lowe)

Adultery: Can there be a day after the worst day ever (Tim Lane)

Too broken to fix (Mike Emlet)

When will the new day dawn? Loving a spouse who was victimized in the past (Julie Lowe & David Powlison)

Also looking forward to the view of the ocean. Missed seeing much of it this summer. Anyone up for a quick dip?


Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, christian counseling, marriage

Ever heard a sermon on Leah?

At this weekend’s conference Tedd Tripp is preaching on Jacob, Rachel and Leah and the matter of heart longings. I think this may have been the first time I have heard someone given an extensive reflection on Leah’s situation. For those of you unfamiliar with this biblical story, Jacob works 7 years for his future father in law in order to marry the younger, more beautiful sister Rachel. On his wedding night he consummated his marriage and discovers afterwards his heavily veiled wife is not Rachel but Leah. He must work another 7 years for Rachel.

Imagine the experience of being Leah. You know he wants someone else. He many even have called you by your sister’s name during that first night. The text says that God saw the Leah was unloved. Her first three sons are named by her in such a way to illustrate her hopes that she will be loved for giving Jacob sons. Her fourth son gives Glory. She appears to no longer pine for Jacob’s love.

Imagine that experience. We could focus on Jacob’s willingness to work 14 years for his first love. We can focus on the deception in the story. But imagine the loneliness of Leah. Imagine a husband who is wiling to have sex with you (and you bear him sons) but who clearly loves someone else more.

Tedd closed by reminding us that Judah, Leah’s son, is the one of Jacob’s son who is in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Notice that God favors Leah in spite of her pain.


Filed under Biblical Reflection

Twenty Years!

Today marks my 20th anniversary of marriage to my wonderful wife Kim. Twenty years ago today she consented to marry me–a young and naive boy with little evidence of capacity to make a living (at that time I had a BA in theology and was working on an MA in religion). Since then, she has let me practice into adulthood at her expense. This is not to say she had no misgivings.Let me tell you about it…

We met as Seminary students and had been friends for about a year when I got the bright idea that we ought to date. Our friendship had been built on spending time together on walks/hikes and her making meals for me every so often (it helped to be a skinny, poor seminary student). The idea of dating came quite clear to me when one day she told me she was going to go on a date with someone from church. I realized right then and there I had no interests making room for other guys. So, I opened up the “dating” conversation sometime in January 1990. It seemed an obvious and natural progression of our relationship. She did not see it that way. She wished to remain as (dreaded) friends but I was too young (23) for her and not her concept of a financially stable person. By some miracle I managed to hide my disappointment and accept the “friend” status. We continued to hang out as I was determined to not fade away. She, unbeknownst to me, polled friends and even a shared professor about me and got the overwhelming advice that she should not look down upon my youth.

On her birthday some six weeks later she let me take her out to a restaurant to celebrate. It so happens to have been a rather nice one. Can’t remember why I chose that one but I’m sure I was still trying to impress. During dinner she handed me a small wrapped box–the size a ring might come in. Beneath a bit of soft stuffing lay a piece of paper that said, “I would like to change my answer to yes.”

I knew right then we would marry. Six months later, we did.

Being young and naive, I didn’t know how much of a good woman I married. Here’s a bit of what I got:

1. A woman with a short memory for wrongs and quick to forgive

2. A woman willing to go on adventures with me

3. A woman who loves to learn and loves to talk about ideas, whether politics, theology, or baseball

In short, I got a great friend AND a wife all in one! I definitely got the better of this deal!

Happy anniversary Hon.


Filed under "phil monroe"

Marriage & Family Conference

Biblical Seminary is co-sponsor of a Marriage and Family conference in Harrisburg, PA run by Shepherd Press Authors. The conference runs October 1-2, 2010. You can find out more information here. I tell you about our sponsorship because those of you associated with Biblical Seminary (friend, alum, student, etc.) are eligible for a discount. Using their website, http://www.SPA2010.com, enter BIBLICAL as a code to receive the discounted registration.

Maybe we’ll see you there.

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Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, Christianity, counseling, Ed Welch, marriage

Graying marriages?

I had the opportunity to catch most of a radio show today on my local public radio station concerning “graying marriages.” The show was focusing on long-term marriages and why they stay together but even more on why more are breaking up after being together for a long time (think the Gores).

A couple of statements I found most interesting:

1. “Long-term marriages, those lasting 20, 30 or more years…” Wow. I’m in a long-term marriage as of August 18. Cool.

2. As a country, we are the most prolific marrying type…also the most likely to divorce…and most likely to remarry.

3. Our country tends to hold two conflicting values: romantic marriage and individualism. Because we keep asking ourselves if we are happy, we may be more likely to see if the grass is greener.

4. There is a rise in the number of long-term marriages that end in divorce. In these kinds of marriages, women are more likely to initiate it when in seemingly stable relationships. Men are more likely to initiate it when they feel there is a chance they can have someone else give them what they have felt they were missing.

5. Newness in marriage as well as flexibility seem to be two factors at play in successful marriages. In other words. trying new things and being willing to change roles over the years tends to keep couples out of staleness and thus avoid tempting thoughts that there might be something better out there. Ultimately, this means every long-term marriage really has 3 or more relationships in it due to role changes that take place.

One of the show’s segments included an interview with writer Rachel Simon. Rachel spoke of her 13 year relationship (cohabiting) with her now husband. But they broke up for 6 years before re-establishing their marriage (now 9 years old). She had several good things to say about learning what it means to love someone. She came to the realization that she ought not try to make him be like her. She had thought that romantic love mean having the same traits and interests.

All in all, an interesting show. Here’s the link.


Filed under marriage

Being the warden

I was sent a new book to review (which I am not planning to do). Since it has to do with pastoral ministry to couples involved in a particular sexual crisis I thought I’d give it the 5 minute skim. In doing so I got a great image: The warden in the relationship. This is the person who was wronged in some terrible way and is now the warden who determines the accountability of the offending party.

When one has broken trust and is now trying to regain that trust, they must become entirely transparent. Their can be no hint of deceit, no unaccountability in any area of life. Not only must the person allow for accountability but they must show evidence they actually desire it and do not chafe at their limitations in life. But what of the other partner? The author says this:

It is not OK for one, considered to be the initial perpetrator, to live totally accountable in his life of genuine repentance, while the other partner never moves off being the warden of the relationship.

How does one fall into this position? The author says “just going with the flow of feelings about the injustice and harmfulness of things is all that is necessary to become the warden, and to never really forgive.” This, I must say, is in the larger context where he also says forgiveness does not require trusting the other or repatriating the other.

In much of Christian counseling, wardens get a raw deal. It is so obvious that they are demanding of a standard of perfectionism, judgmental, unwilling to be vulnerable, etc. It is easy to see this and to go after the hardness of heart that is evident in the warden while accepting the “repentance” of the offender at face value.

It is true that the warden must relinquish the position of judge if the relationship is going to survive long-term in any healthy manner. This does not mean the person stops taking stock of the offender’s actions and attitudes. Nor does it mean that they can forego self-examination.

Here’s my questions:

  1. How do you know the line between careful evaluation of the fact and warden mentality?
  2. What helps might be most helpful to let go of the warden mentality?
  3. How could the church be more supportive of the warden?


Filed under adultery, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling skills

Intractable conflict in marriage

The latest American Psychologist (65:4, 2010) has an interesting article on the topic of intractable conflicts. These can be seen in families, communities or whole country disputes like found recently in Rwanda and the Congo.

The authors make this point at the outset of the article,

Conflict resolution should be easy. Conventional wisdom…has it that conflict arises when people feel their respective interests or needs are incompatible….A conflict that has become intractable should be especially easy to resolve….After all, a conflict with no ed in sight serves the interests of very few people, drains both parties’ resources, wastes energy, and diminishes human capital in service of a futile endeavor. Even a compromise solution that only partially addresses the salient needs and interests of the parties should be embraced when they realize that such a compromise represents a far better deal than pursuing a self-defeating pattern of behavior that offers them nothing but aversive outcomes with a highly uncertain prospect of goal attainment.  (p. 262)

True, but since when does logic ever beat conflict? It doesn’t and these authors know it.

As a conflict becomes a primary focus of each party’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, even factors that are irrelevant to the conflict become framed in a way that intensifies or maintains the conflict. It is as though the conflict acts like a gravity well into which the surrounding mental, behavioral, and social-structural landscape begins to slide. Once parties are trapped in such a well, escape requires tremendous will and energy and thus feels impossible. (ibid, my emphasis)

This is EXACTLY why marriage counseling is so difficult. Everything is read through the lens of “He is so controlling,” or “She won’t respect me.”

Why does this happen? On the surface, an intractable conflict might seem to be about land (e.g., Palestinians vs. Israelis) or about ideological solidarity (republicans vs. democrats) or about bald desire for power. In marriage conflict may appear to be about respect, money, or power. But these authors suggest that conflict becomes intractable because the larger system is supported by the conflict and would more or less collapse if peace were to overtake it. Attractors, they say help maintain a coherent view of the world, a way of promoting unequivocal action without hesitation. Truth be told. We like living in a black/white world where our actions are always clear to us and the bad guys are always bad. A word about power. In conflict, we use power to get what we want (via direct use or manipulation). But there are always power differences between parties. Someone always has more power. In couples, one spouse will always want more sex than the other. This isn’t a bad thing. It only becomes bad when either party refuses to accept the differences or show any capacity to be influenced by the other.

When peaceful resolutions take place, it is because a new system has been developed; a new set of values and definers of reality.

How do you implement such a change? You cannot go directly after the thing that maintains the conflict. In other words, don’t say, “You, wife, stop believing your husband doesn’t love you”; or “You, husband, start loving your wife by…” Built into the maintainers of conflict is a strain of resistance. “I know you just did something nice for me but you really are just trying to get on my good side so you can [fill in the blank], but I’m on to you!”

The authors say, and I agree, that, “Attempts to challenge directly the validity or practicality of an attractor for intractable conflict are therefore often doomed to fail and in fact are likely to intensify people’s beliefs and energize their response tendencies.” (p. 273)

Again, how do we deal with these longstanding conflicts? How do we stop seeing the problem as a simple equation (you stink and I’m great) to something more complex (we’re both broken and here’s what I can do to make things better)?

1. Force self to step back to see the complexity of the situation. This sometimes happens when something blows our mind (we act in a way we THOUGHT we never would). To do this we have to believe that the simple answer is easy but ALWAYS wrong and desire to have a more nuanced view of self and other

2. Go back to see previous unity. So, a couple might go back to remember their first love. What affinities did they once have? Can they recover them? Some couples can. From here, they may find the power to fix problems that seem just a wee bit smaller because of a more powerful unifying narrative that was forgotten.

3. Focus on who we want to be in the midst of trials and tribulations. What kind of person do I want to be (that God empowers me to be) come what may?

Notice that only #2 has to work towards maintaining the marriage and living in close quarters. One can develop a more complex and realistic view of the problem (#1) or focus on character development (#3) and still choose to end a violent or destructive relationship. Both also require that we value something greater than self-interest. From a Christian point of view, love must be the reason for all three options–a love given to us by God alone.


Filed under christian counseling, Cognitive biases, conflicts, counseling skills, Desires, marriage, Psychology, Relationships, Uncategorized

What is your reaction to 20 years of marriage?

Just heard a story-teller talking about his transformation from disregard of marriage to wanting to marry his longtime girlfriend. Looking back to the time when he thought marriage offered him nothing he said his private reaction to the question, “When are you two going to get married?” was something like this,

How come you never hear someone say, “ooh, I can’t wait to get a piece of that (meaning long-time monogamous relationships).” No, we only see them as portrayed as a ball and chain.

We all are aware of the negative connotations to monogamy in our current culture. This particular person couldn’t see any benefits and only drawbacks to marriage. It took a life-threatening crisis to bring him to another perspective.

Closing in on 20 years of marriage, I can attest that it isn’t glamorous but it is good. Marriage isn’t really about ecstasy (well, there IS some of that) it is about commitment. And commitment doesn’t give highs, it moderates the highs and the lows into something far more long-lasting pleasurable than a momentary mountaintop experience.

As I said in my recent talk on this topic, lust may begin a relationship, romance may continue it, but something more (unity, IMHO) provides the motivation to finish the race.

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Filed under love, marriage

On political and marital fights

Recently presented on the matter of marital conflict. On the way home I had a vigorous (and fun!) political debate with a colleague. I came to the realization that there are many similarities between both conflicts. Conflict is almost always about power with the particular issues (or the content of the conflict) a very distant second. We take positions because we see the dangerousness of the other person’s position or direction (and our loss of power). For example, if we follow our spouse’s financial behaviors, we’ll end up in the poor house. If we allow Obama to make decisions, he’ll ruin America. And just like in marital conflicts, we ascribe intent–he WANTS to destroy us all.

What I notice is that while we barely admit our own failings, we love to play out the failings of our opponent/spouse. Obama is taking advantage of a financial crisis to get some of his interests cared for (which of course fails to acknowledge that Bush got the Patriot Act because of a crisis). We could easily say the same in reverse.

My colleague and I most definitely agree on some things–that most politicians are narcissists, that they are more interested in winning than cooperating for the greater good. Truth be told, marital conflict has some similarities. Being heard, getting the other to acknowledge our points may be more important to us than finding a common bond.

It should surprise us that these similarities exist. Since Eden, we’ve been fighting for position and power.

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Filed under christian counseling, conflicts, marriage, News and politics, Relationships