Maintaining our Marriages

Defending marriage should mean for us helping couples learn how to strengthen the marital bond and the unity and concord between the husband and wife.  Repentance, forgiveness, humility, love, putting the other first and wisdom are all virtues needed for a marriage to prosper and for both the husband and wife to grow  in Christ.   Philip Mamalakis talking about marriage and couple’s therapy writes,

“We cannot solve our spouse’s sins, but we can learn to love our spouse.”   

Here is the context in which he makes that comment:

“Within the mystery of marriage, this call to love becomes a call to take responsibility for our own inadequacies and to confess to each other (Js. 5:16) where we have failed. This included asking each other for forgiveness for specific failings to love, shifting how couples interact with each other. In additions, for Orthodox couples, this process finds its fulfillment as couples actively participate in the sacrament of confession. If it were not for the divine mandate to love, the natural conclusion when faced with the impossible task of loving would be to abandon the process. However, the inescapable nature of a monogamous marriage provides the crucible for God’s transforming grace to work. Couples therapy can best be summed up as a process of each person taking responsibility for his or her inability to love as he or she is called to love. Therapy oriented towards pursuing perfect love results in a movement towards mutual confession. This maintains a couple within the context to love and creates a process of mutual vulnerability and intimacy in addressing the sins or restraints of each person. Rather than attacking each other, couples work towards supporting each other in the mutual struggle with each person’s own fallenness, fostering mutual vulnerability and intimacy. Couples develop coping strategies together instead of criticizing each other. Once one person takes responsibility for his problem, it can then become the couple’s problem as they learn to work together to support each other. Rather than criticizing, blaming, judging, mocking, or distancing, each person is called to love and to pray for the other in his/her struggle. By the grace of God, within the mystery of marriage, as we pursue patience and learn to pray for the sins of our spouse, we actively participate in our own transformation.

Without this orientation towards acquiring divine love within marriage therapy, the resources of contemporary psychology and couples counseling can be used to promote self-love. Identifying restraints can exacerbate the problems and sense of separation for a couple. Within the context of the journey towards acquiring perfect love, however, marriage therapy reorients a couple towards the Kingdom of God. Within this approach, the therapist shifts the conversation of a couple and situates the daily struggle of life in the context of this process of becoming Christlike, holding clients in their brokenness. We cannot solve our spouse’s sins, but we can learn to love our spouse.” (in Raising Lazarus: Integral Healing in Orthodox Christianity, edited by Stephen Muse, 226-227)

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