Marriage is a complex interpersonal relationship. Thus its breakdown generally arises from a variety of causes. With the divorce rate approaching crisis proportions, an urgent need exists for counselors skilled in marital stabilization.
One of the most prevalent underlying factors in the breakdown of marriage is lack of communication. When communication ceases, marital growth deteriorates: "In many cases, one partner is so alienated by the spouse that empathy, sympathy, and even listening cease" (Friesen & Friesen, 1989, p. 9).
Prather (1995) attributes outside influences internalized by unwary couples as a major factor in the breakdown of marital relationships. Popular philosophies embrace a mindset known as "separation psychology." We live in a disposable society characterized by a willingness, under pressure, to abandon relationships: " . . . the therapeutic philosophy that so many have turned to justifies selfism and withdrawal and tends to characterize most loving efforts as symptoms of a pathology" (Prather, 1995, p. 5).
Separation philosophy purports to give its adherents power, assuming that power comes through distancing oneself. Therefore, during times of marital strife, partners assert themselves through separation, which often ultimately leads to divorce. In the jargon of separation psychology, couples "cease to maximize each other's growth," "need more space," or find themselves in relationships that "no longer work." Spouses who succumb to this mindset are more prone to discard their present partners in favor of the illusory "perfect match" (Prather, 1995, p. 65).
Before the pastoral counselor can break through the popular psychology that plagues most couples, he or she must build trust in the therapeutic relationship. One of the basic ways that the counselor can build trust is by respecting his or her clients' views about Christian marriage, even if their views differ sharply from those held by...