"The real success in marriage is how much life people brought to each other and how well they reflected God to others outside their marriage.”— Dr. Mark DeYoung


God’s word is the sound foundation on which to ground any relationship. Accordingly,one would assume a religious background would benefit a marriage. But sometimes, interpretation or religious traditions can introduce unrealistic expectations that produce more, rather than less, marital stress. This was just one surprising observation marriage and family therapist Mark DeYoung, Ph.D., discovered in his decades of counseling

families and couples.


He explains this theory, as well as ways to apply God’s power for restoration in his book, Revolutionary Marriage, published in April 2020. While the book is a new release, Mark is no novice at helping couples overcome obstacles or crisis. He has practiced as a family and marriage therapist for more than 25 years and is a clinical fellow of the AAMFT. His doctoral dissertation was titled, "Attachment Phenomena in Foster Families: Exploring Contributions from Foster Parents’ Early Attachment Experiences,” and focused on the role of attachment in foster families including substance abuse treatment, foster care, and adoptions.


Previously notable for conducting most of his therapy via home visits, Mark, like the rest of the world, pivoted to tele-health when in-person sessions went virtual in 2020. Surprisingly, he has found Zoom consults as, if not more, productive than those conducted in person. “It is definitely here to stay,” he said and plans to continue to offer on-line therapy in his practice.


Mark began directing his counseling practice away from foster families and more toward marriage more than 15 years ago. He has completed level three training with renowned Gottman Institute in pursuit of their certification and incorporates their research and evidenced-based therapy techniques in his sessions.


He noticed the typical one-hour marriage session was not effective for couples in crisis. “We’d just get a good fight started or get to the issue, and time would be up and we wouldn’t resolve anything,” he said. Mark began developing the model for his marriage intensives, which dedicate time — a half day, a full day, 2-days back to back — to work together to get to the heart of an issue.

“I was working with a couple that dealt with a very significant infidelity situation. It was hard work! I wasn’t sure if we were going to get through it,” he said. “We stuck in there together, and I saw one of the most beautiful reconciliations I’ve ever seen in a marriage. That was 15 years ago, and they are still happily married.”

Mark expanded his crisis counseling model to design a retreat, the first of which will be offered this Labor Day weekend. The conference will accommodate just 15 couples, as it is built to offer intimate, focused time to work on deep issues in the marriages. “I want a small enough room to have some vulnerability with each other,” he said. “We’ll have time and space to practice activities so they’ll be more likely to carry them out in their houses.”


Mark begins by unpacking material from Revolutionary Marriage to describe what makes marriages broken, then moves forward to explain how couples can live out new ways of relating to each other. For example, they’ll work on a forgiveness activity where participants learn how to share hurt and then share forgiveness beyond just saying, “sorry.” Couples will talk about true repentance and model how to do things differently. He’s noted preconceived expectations as a contributing factor to brokenness in some

couples.


“A lot of women want their husband to step up and be the spiritual leader in their family,” Mark said, “but if he doesn’t feel gifted in that area and doesn’t know how, he doesn’t do it, and then he feels inadequate. His wife is disappointed and distances herself emotionally.” Mark suggests that instead of rigidly delineating male and female roles in a marriage, each spouse should lead in their area of giftedness and leave the shame at the door.


Mark views a Biblical definition of marriage through a slightly different lens. He sees both the male and female spouse as reflecting God’s glory through their marriage relationship. He pictures Paul’s words about marriage in Ephesians as a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with the church. “God wants us to be married not so we can be happy, fulfilled or self-actualized,” he said. “God wants us to represent Christ’s love for the church in a way that others witness Christ through our behavior. That’s how a marriage contributes to God’s Kingdom, We don’t love God just to get a ticket to heaven. We follow God so we can participate in his activity right now, and through unity and sacrifice, model Christ to the world.”


Mark looks for the spark that inspired a couple to make that life-long commitment. Then he builds on that foundation to encourage them to keep growing and learning, so they can help each other best reflect God to the world.


Revolutionary Marriage takes readers back to God’s creation of Adam and Eve to start the rescue mission for creation. Then Genesis 3 happens and the first couple meets up with trauma and brokenness. Mark attributes the destruction of the fall as having relational effects of:

  • Damage: which leads to brokenness, lies, betrayal, feeling less than, shame, distrust. Which births -

  • Distance: Couples engaged in those behaviors start growing distant from each other. Which ultimately leads to –

  • Death: Either divorce, or physical death.

Mark takes couples from this place of distress to learn how to create a marriage that is safe, stable and successful, with steps that counter each move toward degradation of the marital bond by a positive action.


Healing begins with reconciliation — the knowledge that spouses will hurt or disappoint each other often and need to become practiced at forgiving and reconciling. This involves vulnerability, willingness to admit own failings, ability to live out grace — heading a marriage into a place of safety, which builds stability, recommitting to each other every day.


Stability grows when commitment is modeled through the habit of spending regular and consistent time with each other. Time together needs to be quality time to grow intimacy, which means being engaged and emotionally present. Mark suggests taking a walk or cooking together and planning schedules so time off matches. (Put down that phone or TV remote!)


Lastly, Mark remarks that no one wants their marriage to die. The source of resurrection is Christ. Spouses live resurrected lives in their marriage by the way they bring life to each other through their words, the way the treat each other, and through the sexual relationship that creates new life and physically energizes.


When asked how he defines a successful marriage, Mark doesn’t look only at a couple’s longevity together. Rather, he is more impressed by a couple that has faced some of the harder relational issues and chosen “to live through the shame, hurt and betrayal and allow God’s work in the relationship to provide the healing and reconciliation so people can witness that.”


“The real success in marriage is how much life people brought to each other and how well they reflected God to others outside their marriage,” Mark said.

He challenged, “Where is God entering into the picture of your marriage? Where are you allowing God to change you? How are you living out grace with each other every day? When a couple’s children see that – that’s a big deal!”

Mark’s upcoming project is taking the material in Revolutionary Marriage and developing it into a curriculum for church staff to help them better relate to couples who seek marital help. He has tested his principles on students at Lubbock Christian University and will soon pilot a program at his church, The Hills, in Fort Worth, is pastored by Rick Atchley, also known as Max Lucado’s friend and college roommate. Mark hopes the curriculum will be a practical guide to help couples for ministry and

church leaders.


Mark’s next works include books, Revolutionary Sex, which will result in the need for Revolutionary Parenting, where Mark may draw from his expertise counseling foster families and children.


Find Mark DeYoung at deyoungconsulting.com.





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Despite the happily-ever-after ending portrayed by Hollywood, successful marriages take work. Sometimes all that is necessary is a communication tweak or more focused time together to set a marriage back on solid ground. But other times the enormity of effort required can feel like climbing Mount Everest.


Whether your marriage just needs a little inspiration or is coming apart at the seams, Christian psychologist, speaker and author David E. Clarke, Ph.D., offers wisdom pertinent to you.


He bases the information in his 15 books, podcasts, seminars and therapy sessions from 35 years of personal and professional experience counseling couples at the Marriage and Family Enrichment Center in Tampa, founded by his father, William G. Clarke, M.A. David’s been featured on Focus on the Family multiple times. He guides people toward healthy lives, marriages, and families through his Bible-based teaching and therapy, which he describes as “direct, hands-on, and practical.”


His body of work runs the gamut from marriage enrichment to helping couples overcome the deepest problems of adultery and pornography addiction. For decades he’s delivered seminars meant to encourage couples toward more intimacy — emotional, spiritual and physical. He considers his speaking engagements the lighthearted side of his practice, which offers very practical and inspirational steps to draw couples closer. He often starts with “The top 10 lame excuses to end a marriage,” “because there are people out there who are thinking those things,” he said.


In 2020 David published his first devotional, The Secret to Becoming Soulmates, which he designed to draw spouses closer while introducing or deepening a relationship with Christ. Each short chapter offers personal stories, a Bible verse, and questions to develop spiritual and emotional intimacy. It’s also designed to inspire those who may not believers to Christ by uncovering obstacles to faith.


However, the mainstay of David’s ministry has been I Don’t Want a Divorce. The book, published in 2009, unpacks how to rescue a marriage on the brink of divorce and parallels the action steps he practices in counseling. He encourages those for whom traditional counseling has failed to try his approach. “I'm very how-to oriented. I tell people what they can do today, this week, to change,” he said.


Couples don’t come in to therapy unless there is a crisis,” David said. “They’ve been miserable for quite some time. It is complete chaos, and this is their last ditch effort. I tell them, ‘Here’s what’s worked for hundreds if not thousands of people.’ If they follow this plan, with God’s help, they can heal and rebuild their marriage”


He describes his clients as “coming in at dead empty — somebody has been dragged in and doesn’t want to be there —My job is to get them interested.”


I Don’t Want a Divorce outlines a step-by-step, 90-day plan to marital restoration. David begins by requiring each spouse to take responsibility for their own mistakes. He tells each that change begins with them. “If they are willing to do that, it starts to work. The atmosphere changes,” he said. “Next, they take small steps of meeting needs. As they build some momentum, they get the flow back and start getting unstuck. We work on skill building, how to resolve conflict, then reintroduce romance.” David helps them clean out the past pain, and then, when they are ready, he can help them clean out the resentments between the spouses.

“Marriage is hard. I tell them it is ok to be really in dire straights,” he added. “Nothing is too much for God.”

Along with the book, David providentially launched the I Don’t Want a Divorce podcast in 2018, which introduced his philosophies to a wider audience and greatly expanded the reach of his practice — a Godsend when counseling pivoted to phone consultations due to Covid. He found people nationwide already felt like they knew him after listening to his broadcasts, so they were ready to follow his counsel about their specific problem when they called.


“I’m very blunt, and I use a lot of humor,” he said. “When people call me, I’ll assess the situation, and I’ll give you a plan. People like that. One session with a clear plan of action gives them confidence, and they know they are doing the best to try to save their marriage.”


While David’s rescued countless marriages from the brink of divorce, his latest book actually targets the spouse who has been left. I Didn’t Want a Divorce, Now What? was written to help a person recover from an unwanted divorce.


David never counsels couples to divorce; however, he acknowledges that divorce is a common societal norm. And with no-fault divorce easy to obtain, our landscape is littered with the broken-hearted spouses left reeling in its aftermath. Someone dumped them, or they may have gotten divorced for Biblical reasons when an abusive, adulterous, narcissistic spouse wouldn’t change. Bottom line, they didn’t want it, and they still feel guilty, David said. I Didn’t Want a Divorce offers hope and a path to help them move forward.


With remarriage common, David advises couples about the necessity of addressing the hurt and guilt of their prior relationships, because until they do, the past will continue to disrupt their present. “You have to heal from a divorce in the past. The marriage you are in right now is the one God is concerned with,” David said. He cautions if a person hasn’t done the specific healing and recovery work from a past divorce, “every last bit of all the stuff you didn’t resolve is still there and will transfer in the new marriage.” David’s counseling process involves hard work going through the past traumatic events, but as he says, “Real change is always hard.”


Several of his books are designed specifically for these difficult situations where one spouse is entrenched in sin and reluctant to change. David’s advice to those dealing with hard problems in their marriage differs from what he terms the typical Christian advice to win a spouse back. His tough love program advises taking a strong stance.


I Don’t Love You Any More addresses adultery and pornography in a marriage from the understanding that the spouses want to heal their marriage. “It is a very hard core, step by step process to help a marriage heal from sexual sin,” David said. My Spouse Wants Out (subtitle – How to Get Angry, Fight Back, and Save Your Marriage), is an extension of the process, but it applies when the sinning spouse is uncooperative. “It’s not what the Christian community usually teaches,” David added. “I say, ‘Be strong, be Biblically angry.’ It is more than just releasing you, it empowers you, and you might just shake them up.” My Spouse Wants Out offers a plan in plain language for one who wants to exhaust every effort to restore their marriage.


“Your spouse has told you he wants out of your marriage. His excuses for ending your marriage are incredibly lame and not even close to a Biblical reason for divorce. What do you do? You follow Dr. David Clarke’s tough, aggressive and Biblical Save Your Marriage Plan. His action steps (which run against what most pastors and Christian counselors recommend) will empower you, protect you and your children and give you the best chance to shake up your spouse and save your marriage.”


Surprisingly, one of David’s best selling books is Enough is ENOUGH – How to leave an Abusive Relationship, which is being reprinted by Moody Press. This book also recommends a firm stance to motivate an abuser to change.


Other books offer a softer approach as they detail ways to improve communication and restore intimacy. Both, Men are Clams, Women are Crowbars and Honey, Can We Talk? contribute to David’s goal to help marriages thrive. He considers his work a success only when the marriage is restored to wholeness and happiness to include a rich, vibrant relationship, and emotional and physical intimacy.

“Success is not just staying together and surviving. The point is a tremendous marriage,” David said. “God wants the whole package for you. God is not glorified with a milquetoast marriage that has just survived. It’s fantastic helping people work until they get there.”

The number one problem David sees is in his practice is that people give up when they hit the wall. They may have communication problems, sexual problems, financial problems. “When things get hard, our society just quits. The carnage is unbelievable. We should fight tooth and nail for our marriages,” he said.


He sees a rise in selfishness with the advent of social medial. Society tells us, “If I am unhappy, that is the worst thing in the world.” He also addresses the problem of pornography. “Epidemic doesn’t even cover it!” he exclaimed. “It’s off the charts. It’s free, available, and seconds away. It’s destroying our nation.”


Whether you’re looking for a deeper connection with your spouse, hovering on the brink of divorce, or suffering from the hurts of sinful choices, Dr. David Clarke’s ministry has a resource that will speak straightforwardly and practically to your situation with hope, humor, and truth founded on the word of God.


Connect More with Dr. David Clarke, Ph.D.


https://www.davideclarkephd.com/


David has been married to his wife, Sandy, (to whom he refers as “the blonde”) for 39 years. David followed the footsteps of his father, William G. Clarke, M.A., also a marriage counselor and therapist who founded the Marriage and Family Enrichment Center in Tampa. The two practiced together for five years before the elder Clarke retired.


Since 1986, Dr. Clarke has been in full-time private practice in Tampa, where he has worked extensively

with individuals, couples, and families in therapy. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Point Loma College in San Diego, California. He also holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. His Ph.D. is in Clinical Psychology from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Beginning in 1982, at a Minirth-Meier Inpatient Clinic in Garland, Texas, Dr. Clarke has trained in a number of inpatient hospitals and outpatient counseling centers. He is a licensed psychologist in the state of Florida. In addition, Dr. Clarke has been an adjunct teacher at the Tampa extensions of Dallas Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.





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Your husband's gone again... and then, just when you've gotten used to tackling the kids and the chores on your own, he's back. Any wife whose husband serves in the military, or works in the oil field, or drives a long haul truck knows — a husband's frequent work-related absences can stress even the best marriage.

Joyce Zook understands firsthand the challenges of wives in long-distance marriages. She supported her husband through 26 years of U.S. Army service in her 42 years of marriage. When he retired, and they settled in one place, Joyce began working with women as a life coach, gleaning from years mentoring others in Bible study and through the military's Protestant Women of the Chapel (of which she eventually led European operations.) Joyce is certified by the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).

Joyce offers wisdom learned from her experience as a military wife and mother. She and her husband, Aaron, accepted Christ early in their marriage and found strength and stability in their faith. Joyce had survived a disastrous, short-lived marriage previously, and not wanting to repeat the past, found direction in God's word.

"When we applied what we learned, we fought less often, and our friendship and devotion for one another grew. Best of all, joy and peace filled our hearts when we implemented the truths we discovered," she posted.

Strategies that worked in Joyce's marriage eventually became the foundation for her book, 12 Keys for Marriage Success, published in 2019. The book grew out of material she presented at speaking events and from a radio program, Love that Lasts a Lifetime. She has since expanded her resources to include a webinar teaching series based on the 12 Keys that can be accessed on her website. Joyce speaks, teaches, and coaches women around the world to love their lives and their marriages, offering advice that is both biblically sound and practical, teaching life skills and helping marriages get back on the right track of intimacy and engagement.

Military life imposes unique hardships on marriages. Families are constantly uprooted when postings take them across the globe. There's an ever present concern for the loved one's safety. And husband's deployments move them in and out of the family routine with little warning. These trials, compounded by financial struggles and the exhaustion of parenting children single-handedly, take their toll.

Military husbands, too, find it hard to admit they need help as word may inadvertently reach their workplace. Joyce realized that to help military marriages she would be most effective if she concentrated her efforts on the wives, encouraging them to change the things they could and not fixate on their husband's faults.

"So many times guys won't read the books and won't go to a counselor," Joyce said. “So I focused on what a wife can do to create a wonderful marriage." The military tries very hard never to let the home life affect the military member's performance reports. But from my experience of working with so many women over the years, I found it is not humanly possible to keep the two totally separate - home life affects workplace performance.

She began where she started, in 1 Peter 3, which admonishes women to win their husbands over by their actions. "I had a little hole in my Bible in that spot where my finger had worn through the page," she said. She draws from that passage to inspire women to stop trying to change their husbands. "Everyone wants to fix him," she said. "Most of my women think they are helping."

"Guys want to know what you are doing when you stop nagging and do things differently," she said. The cornerstone of 12 Keys to Marriage Success starts with wives working on what they can change about themselves — their attitudes, their mindsets. Often a husband is motivated to respond more positively to his wife when he sees some of their points of conflict reduce, Joyce said.


Her first key, Stick Like Glue, stresses commitment to the marriage. She grounds her process on the Bible's words concerning divorce and marriage. Joyce acknowledges it is hard for someone to give up the idea of changing their spouse, so she begins her practice by making sure wives are committed. (See sidebar for the Keys)

Joyce's words for the wise:

  • The only person we can force to modify their actions is ourselves, which is extremely hard. But we can set up circumstances that make our husbands want to adapt and adjust their lives for the better.

  • If we try to fix or force our spouses to perform a task our way, it frequently backfires. It is possible, though, to amend our own behavior and thereby produce an atmosphere that influences our guys to change their reactions to us.

  • If we sound like their mother, most guys tune us out or walk away in anger. Grown men don't want to be told what to do or treated as children.

  • Nagging rarely causes anyone to switch what they do without resentment. But our husbands will show a renewed interest in us as women and wives when they experience our acceptance and admiration for who they are.

  • Shifting our behavior to act as their girlfriend and lover, not their mom, causes our mates' reactions to turn for the better. We create an environment that invites them to adjust their conduct because they feel valued. Once they sense our continued support, they begin to express their appreciation and love for us more readily.

  • Marriages can change for the better. Suppose our guys don't show any initiative to work on the relationship or don't agree there's a problem to fix. We still have the opportunity to completely transform our marriages even if we are the only ones trying to improve it. Our consistent adjustments to our conduct set the stage for our mates to reconsider their responses and actions.

  • The Lord works through and alongside us as we embrace His truths to build the deep connections we crave with our husbands. We can discover greater happiness and a richer intimacy with our husbands by incorporating the twelve keys for marriage success into our lives.


One of the challenges Joyce addresses is how to cope with a husband who's in and out of the household — whether he's going to war, gone for a year, or on training exercises. "The Bible tells us to submit to our husband's lead – but how can he lead when he's not there?" she asked. She suggests couples agree before he's away what decisions the wife should make while her husband is gone.

Joyce teaches wives to set up a routine that's consistent whether her husband is home or not. Joyce remembers setting dinner time at 6 p.m. when her boys were young. Her husband would either be there to join them, or his meal would be waiting on a plate in the refrigerator. She said it was remarkable how knowing a family dinner would be waiting for him motivated him to be home.

"We don't think about how planning to make meals can change a marriage," Joyce said. "But if you can't feed that man food when he gets home, he's grumpy!"

Joyce stresses the importance of wives taking care of themselves — developing a personal relationship with the Lord, fellowshipping with other believers and addressing their personal health. "Make sure you get some rest," she said. "How are you going to do that when you have toddlers? Figure out how to take the focus off the kids and put your husband back on the priority list."

She prompts women to listen for what her husband is asking, and then assess if complying with his wishes is something she can do. "Most of the time we can figure out how to give them what they want as well as what we want at the same time," she said. "My husband didn't want to trip over toys when he walked in the front door." Joyce realized that was a request she could honor, and stressed how small changes like organizing home responsibilities can make a real difference in improving the atmosphere of a home and not drain time and energy that could be spent on something positive.

While Joyce mentions clients have shared stories about marriages rescued from the brink of divorce, many of her strategies will be more effective before a marriage gets to the state of desperation. More experienced women in particular might find great joy in walking a group of younger ones through the 12 Keys, either alone or in conjunction with Joyce's video lessons.


Connect More with Joyce Zook:

You'll find Joyce at https://joycezook.com. Her on-demand Marriage Success tab with twelve videos and study guides went live on April 1, 2021: https://joycezook.com/12-keys-self-pace. On her website, you'll discover 12 Keys for Marriage Success and her other books, Priorities for Life and God and Your Closet, along with links to her blog. Join Joyce each Wednesday at 10 am on Facebook Live at https://bit.ly/3szLPny and check out more of her videos on YouTube at https://bit.ly/3hjI7IN.





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