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11 Ways to Help Couples in Crisis

Today in a Lunch and Learn workshop at Gateway Church in Austin, David and Kay Moore shared some principles to help couples who are in crisis:

1. Know when to refer. Look for the experts in your area.

2. Strive to maintain neutrality. There are two sides to every story. Try to be for the couple and for the marriage rather than for him and against her or vice versa.

3. Protect confidentiality. Try to avoid counseling by committee. Often one couple’s issues can involve a tremendous number of people when in reality one or two counselors can be helpful.

4. A person will get better when they focus on their own behavior and choices rather than blaming the spouse. It is ok to allow some venting, but move the conversation towards what the person can change.

5. Ask the spouse who is leaving to clarify why he or she is leaving. Ask the one being left to clarify why his or her spouse is leaving. These simple questions reveal a great deal about the situation. Remember: the goal isn’t to keep the couple in a loveless and challenging marriage. God wants our marriages to be life-giving and rewarding!

6. Remember to treat the one who wants to leave gently. It is often harder to rekindle feelings for a woman who wants to leave than for a man.

7. If the one being left wants to fight for his or her marriage, even if the marriage is not saved then at least he or she will know that he or she has tried all he or she could.

8. Encourage both involved to seek wise counsel. Often those closest to us will take our side and advise us to leave and/or harbor bitterness towards our spouse. Encourage each person to share the details with those who are wise and have the best interests of the marriage in mind. This can be difficult if the marriage is saved.

9. Help the spouses to deepen their relationship with God, especially during this time of crisis. Point them towards passages in the Bible which focus on God’s presence, love, and plan for each of them. God can help bring stability.

10. Help the couple discover their uniqueness and differences – personality, love languages, gender preferences, etc.. Help them see the differences and the value of those differences.

11. Come up with a plan for next steps. Ask: “what do you need to do today?” Try to be very specific. Ask: “what can we pray for today?” The plan should include a professional counselor and/or a team that can walk with them for the long haul.

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Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.