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.
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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.