When Marriage Counseling Doesn’t Work

ThinkstockPhotos-178280024Mark says:
Jill and I have always been proponents of marriage counseling. We’ve talked about it openly in our marriage and tried our best to help couples know that “asking for help” is an important part of the marriage journey.

Jill says: 
We’ve sought out counseling as needed through our nearly 33 years of marriage. Even more than finding the right counselor, we’ve found that having the right attitude makes all the difference in the world.

Mark says: 
That’s why Jill and I resonated with Justin Davis’ blog post over on RefineUs.org last week. We were so moved by it, we asked him if we could share it here.  Justin, who coauthored the book Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enoughwith his wife Trisha, gave us the green light. We hope you find it as helpful as we did.

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imagesWhen Trish and I started our first church in 2002, we had a lot of faith, very little money and even less people. I put together a business plan of what I thought was our budget and timeline and started meeting with as many people as I could, asking them to support this new church.

One morning I sat down with a very successful business man, seeking his advice but also his financial support. He had a huge heart for God and years of business experience. A friend had set up the meeting for me, and I didn’t want to blow it. I was nervous that I’d say the wrong thing and he would think I didn’t know what I was doing (which I didn’t) and not contribute to our vision.

I gave him a copy of our nine page business plan and began walking through it. My voice was shaking and my palms were sweating because there was so much at stake. I finished my speech and felt that even though it may not have been a great presentation, I swung for the fence. I closed my copy of the business plan, took a big drink of water and looked up to see his response.

“This is a great presentation.” he said.

“Thank you.” I replied.

“What is Plan B?” he asked. “If this plan doesn’t work, what is your Plan B?”

Inside I began to panic. I didn’t have a Plan B. This was my only plan. We were risking everything to start this church. I didn’t know if I should try to come up with an impromptu plan b or just be honest and tell him I didn’t have one.

“I don’t have a Plan B, sir.” I said. “I’m banking everything on this.”

His response still echoes in my heart and mind, “And that’s why this will work. If you had a Plan B, I’d question your commitment to this plan. This is going to work because you’re all in.”

A few months ago, I was sitting with a couple and the wife said to me, “We are going to try this (meeting with me) and if this doesn’t work we’re going to separate.” My response shocked both of them.

I said, “Well I can save all three of us an hour of our lives…you should just separate right now.”

Marriage counseling doesn’t work if a couple goes into it with a Plan B. The only way marriage counseling can work is if both a husband and a wife are all in. If you have a contingency plan or a a back up plan, you are already assuming that it will fail. You can’t hedge your bet and go ALL IN at the same time.

Marriage counseling is game-changing. It can save a shattered marriage and make a good marriage great. But what it requires is more than many people are willing to give: 100%.

download100% commitment

100% honesty

100% vulnerability

100% forgiveness

100% ownership

100% grace

Because so many of us go into marriage counseling with this thought, “When this doesn’t work then I’ll do this….” we never allow our hearts to fully engage. Our Plan B robs us of experiencing the transformation and change we desperately need.

Going all in is risky. Pursing your marriage with no contingency plan means you could get hurt in the end. You become vulnerable. But God shows up when we’re at our weakest point. Maybe we don’t experience God’s power to transform our marriage because we’re so busy hedging our bets.

Complete surrender. That’s where life-change and marriage transformation is found.

Go all in.

What about you? Have you kept a Plan B in the back of your mind? Do you need to surrender fully and go all in? 

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9 Responses to When Marriage Counseling Doesn’t Work

  1. Nichole says:

    I just today had a long talk with my husband and he was shocked that I had already worked out a plan B. We need prayer.

    • JillSavage says:

      Nichole, I’m so glad you talked to your husband. You got your thoughts out in the light! That is an important part of moving towards him. Now recognize that Plan B is not going to help your marriage and recognize it as a lie from the enemy and surrender fully to what God wants to do in you and in your marriage. You can do this girl!

  2. Julie says:

    How do you respond to a spouse who quickly and freely escalates to “Plan B” stating he wants to move out or divorce?

    • JillSavage says:

      Julie, unfortunately it takes two to marry and only one to divorce. You cannot control your spouse. The only thing you can do is to stand firm in your perspective of “no Plan B.” You can communicate that to your spouse and ask him for that commitment as well, but you can’t make him have it. I’ve always had a “no Plan B” perspective, but Mark, obviously if you know our story, decided there was a Plan B. That’s what led to the affair he chose to pursue. I couldn’t control him…I just stayed steady in what I knew was right, communicating my “no Plan B” commitment. Hang in there girlfriend. I know it’s hard sometimes.

      • Julie says:

        I do know and have been greatly encouraged by your story. Unfortunately, I have also lived it and really appreciate the courage it took for you to share it. I am so grateful for your desire to help others and point us to Christ. I will continue to pray and hold strong to my No Plan B. My husband has not followed through but consistently threatens it. Thank you so much.

  3. Lisa Hurley says:

    I love this. Thank you for sharing. I tend to live with an “always have a Plan B” mindset and I’ve never challenged that. Thanks for the intro to Justin’s blog!

  4. Leanne Moore says:

    This may have been originally published on June 8, but I just found it and at the exact moment I needed it. My husband of 1 year has had 3 different infidelities with the same woman since Christmas of 2014. I am finding out more and more details of this each day. I was in a plan B mindset until I read this post. Thank you for sharing your journey, it has been a true God send.

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