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Who Is Responsible For the Success of Your Marriage? – Part 2

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Part 1 asked two vital questions. The first question is, “Are you distorting the truth from your counselor as grounds to divorce your spouse?” The second question is, “Who do you feel is responsible for the success or failure of your marriage? Does last resort mean you are desperate for help?”

Secret Agenda

Back when I started pastoral counseling at around age 25, I remember a particular day when a wife came to see me about her decision to divorce her husband. As I explored the biblical justifications for divorce, asking her when her husband deserted her or committed adultery, she said, “Oh, he hasn’t committed adultery or left me.”

Making more inquiry about her husband, she shocked me as she said, “He is a Christian and a good man who wants to be married to me, but I want out of the marriage. I don’t love him."

As I tried to wrap my brain around her words, her intent became clear.

I asked, “Have you come in here today so that I would give assent as a pastor to you leaving your husband? Were you hoping that I would affirm your desire and authorize a divorce? If I did support the divorce, were you planning on telling others that I sanctioned this decision?"

She shot back, “Yes, and if you don’t, I will just go down the street to that other church. The pastor there will tell me what I want to hear."

Her words still ring in my head. She had a secret agenda in coming to see me.

She intended to steer me down a path for her selfish purposes.

Fortunately, she was honest enough to let the cat out of bag! She revealed facts that most people keep hidden at such a moment.

As a young pastor, I had never encountered a secret attempt to exploit my pastoral counsel for such uncharitable and egotistical ends.

I highlighted a passage of Scripture for her:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3).

She did not get angry at me after I quoted that verse. Instead, she put out her cigarette in the ashtray (yes, in 1976 I let a person smoke in my office), stood up and matter of factly walked out.

I never saw her again.

I sat there in disbelief. “Did I actually hear what I thought I just heard?” Yes, that’s what she said to me! Indeed she came to me in order to use me as justification to divorce her husband.

My Response My Responsibility

In a similar fashion, what do some really mean when they say, “Dr. Eggerichs you are our last resort and if this doesn’t work we’re getting a divorce?”

Are they open to hearing me share what will get them back on the right path?

Are they willing to subscribe, for example, to the idea that “my response is my responsibility”?

I share that, in my marriage, Sarah does not cause me to be the way I am; she reveals the way I am. Therefore, when I react in negative and sinful ways this reveals a root problem within me that must not be blamed on Sarah.

I hate this truth, especially on a day when I feel badly about myself to begin with!

Everything in me resists owning this axiom. For that reason I ask, “Will this couple own up to the truth of 'my response is my responsibility’ or hate it so much they refuse to return and then say, ‘Even Emerson could not help us?’”

As I mentioned, on rare occasions, I’d hear through the grapevine, “Oh, that couple said even your counsel did not work with them so they got a divorce. One of them has remarried."

Really? They refused to apply any of my counsel. They did not want to hear what I had to share. Who was responsible for their marriage?

Once again, I ask you to consider who is responsible for the success...or failure…of your marriage.

In Part 3, I will share a series of questions to help you examine this question for yourself.

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider