Online Certification Program in Christian Counseling: Christian Ideals and Divorce
Divorce and broken romantic relationships are never the first thought that emerges as one meets that special someone. Ideas of happiness, security, and fidelity are the thoughts that emerge in one’s mind instead of anger, sadness and betrayal. God in the Garden, created male and female to complement one another in a state of friendship, love and
companionship. Later, Christ, would cement this union in the indissoluble bond of marriage. He would raise it to a level of a holy sacrament, sanctifying the natural bond of companionship to that of a holy bond reflecting the love of the Trinity.
While these Christian ideals exist in both mind and world, we still nevertheless see ideals that are sometimes not met in a fallen world; a world where Lucifer, the hater of the marriage and love, hopes to corrupt with divorce and hate. This sad reality affects many good people and spiritual counselors have the difficult task of rebuilding the wholeness of the person to the former self. Christ, while denouncing divorce, nevertheless understands the failures and deficiencies of certain partners. Christ realizes that while many hope to fulfill their sacred vow of “for better or worst”, there still exist many who will undermine the good intentions of their partner. This is the sad reality of the real world, and while ideals of Christian excellence still exist, these ideals are becoming more and more obsolete and distant in a corrupt, narcissistic and immoral world that hopes for ease and pleasure in every human action. This article will look review three concepts regarding broken relationships. First, we will review false notions. Second, we will look into some grief concepts of attachment theory and grief recovery and finally, we will look at some sociological reactions we see from broken individuals of divorce. All of this, however, will be guided and illuminated via a Christian perspective that hopes to alleviate the suffering of the broken in this fallen world.
If Its Broke, Throw It Away?
It is the true that the era of fixing something if it is broke is over. Instead, the modern generation with its lack of patience or work ethic, would much rather throw something that is broke away. We see it in every aspect in life. Advertising floods our minds with if something is outdated, upgrade. Far gone are notions of repairs on the simple things in life. Instead of sewing a shirt that loses a button, materialism pushes one to buy an entire new shirt. While these analogies are a far cry from actual human interaction, one cannot dismiss the modern world view of quick fixes and minimal effort or “out it goes”. When such detrimental philosophies exist, can one not expect it to permeate other aspects of life? If one simply infuses secular
humanism, materialism, moral relativism, and other “isms” that promote self over others, then one can understand why relationships also fail and divorce rates rise.
What then to look for? When two people come for counseling, what personalities manifest? While the Church attempts in Pre-Cana to pin point potential ethical and moral differences among couples, it sometimes cannot find everything. Sometimes existing deep within the soul of a partner is a person not known. Hence the frequent comments of “he or she changed” or “he or she was not the person I thought he or she was” are heard in mass quantity. The marriage counselor looks to discover what is now missing from those once blissful “honeymoon” days. What went wrong and who was at fault? In the end, many of the issues can point to the previous paragraph and the many social “isms” listed. This is why it is so imperative for people to truly know one another beyond the physical. While the Church strictly forbids pre-marital sex, a counselor still must exist in the reality of the world. Most couples, even Christian, partake in pre-marital sex. In many cases, the relationship becomes sex. With this comes a flood of emotional bonds that are only meant for husband and wife. Obviously this pre-martial chastity feat is easier said than done, especially when emotions run high and sex is seen everywhere in our social media. Yet, the distortion sex can play in regards to one’s true emotional bond and who someone is can play a major deceptive force. In the end, no one can separate emotion from the physical act of conjugation. Even the most ardent hedonist or narcissist will become attached or emotional in some way, albeit selfish, with someone who frequents their bed chamber. It is inevitable. It is perhaps these reasons why one sees so many divorces. People do not truly know each other and there exists more than ever a series of “isms” and ideals that are contrary to the gospel. With marriage becoming a contract instead of a covenant, this alarming trend will continue and people will suffer heart break.
The second thing a Christian Counselor should consider is the actual grief recovery process. Attachment is a very powerful part of human existence. Attachment Theory first promoted by John Bowlby looked at the intimate bond infants and children had for their parents. Humans as social creatures must form bonds. Healthy social skills that promote bond building are essential in human psychological development. When these attachments are torn away, it can produce great stress and emotional pain to the individual. These attachments are also important in romantic love. The intensity of the sexual act only intensifies most bonds. Hence the intensity of the bond correlates with the intensity of the grief and time of recovery. While most people are resilient, pathological grief reactions can occur that lead to depression or other forms of complicated grief after divorce. Those who are more prone to intense grief reactions are usually the ex-spouses who were more dependent, financially as well as emotionally, upon the ex-lover. Betrayal, abuse and false expectations can also intensify the grief reaction.
The sudden loneliness and anxiety that follows a breakup can also intensify the grief reaction. In addition to the shock that everything was an illusion and the adaption that accompanies this horrifying change, partners are now finding themselves in their big lonely bed by themselves. The smallest scent or image can produce a tidal wave of emotional imagery that brings the person to tears over the loss of a relationship. Unfortunately there are no short cuts in this tale and everyone must work through their grief and adapt and format the loss of a relationship into their new life story. While the scars
remain, one is able to adjust, grow and find wholeness. The past chapters will always remain in one’s life story, but they do not have to be the chapters that dominate the theme of the overall tale. Via counseling, prayer and a strong relationship with Christ one again can find wholeness and love; a love that transcends mere human bonds, but a love for Christ that heals and allows one to love him or herself again.
Crawling out of the hole of divorce, however, is far from easy. While emotional issues tear at one, one is also besieged with legal and financial issues that can further cripple one emotionally. This is even intensified more when children and change of living conditions occur that result in alterations of household traditions. No longer does there exist certainty but only doubt. This leads to a large array of different sociological reactions to divorce that are beyond the mere stress and depression. People simply become different than their usual self during this difficult transition. Some people become distant from the opposite sex. Cynical and doubting of any person worthy of trust, these individuals either avoid intimacy or seek it only for pleasurable purposes with no true meaning. They fear commitment because they do not wish to be hurt, but their desires to satisfy the loneliness drive them to find something. Some find that something in random sexual friends, drugs, or off the wall adventures. Others are the opposite. They are in such a desperate state that they hope to capture the essence of any relationship to fill their void. In many cases, these rebound relationships end in disaster. The reality is they cannot find happiness in themselves due to the break up, so they seek it in other people. They seek the “relationship” and correlate it with any face. They forget that the relationship is the byproduct of the person and not vice versa. With these confusing times, some find resiliency eventually, while others search in the dark for any light they can find. In these cases, counseling is needed to help the person find wholeness.
Wholeness in Christ
Ultimately, finding this wholeness again and healing the deep wounds of divorce is a spiritual endeavor and trek. It cannot happen fast, but is a process. Like any process, there will be oscillation of emotion. There will be “better days” and there will be “bad days” but ultimately the process if guided correctly will lead the person out of this valley of despair.
Wholeness is best found in Christ. Through the church, prayer, support groups, the sacraments (for Catholics) and true friends, one is able to overcome the over whelming change. They are able to identify that the past will not define their future. They will be able to love themselves and seek not what they think they need, but only what Christ wills for them. By accepting and carrying one’s cross and accepting the will of the Father, one begins the first step of healing. Christian suffering identifies crosses throughout one’s life and utilizes them to become stronger in one’s faith in Christ and to share in
his suffering. Once one submits their will to Christ and embraces their cross, then and only then will they discover the sweetness of its weight and the company of Christ who burdens most of their pain. Through that company in suffering, one again will rise from the ashes, become whole, and find new beginnings in greater chapters of their life story.
If you are interested in the Christian Counseling Certification, please review the program.
Also please review our online certification program in Christian Counseling
Mark Moran, MA, SCC-C, GC-C