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With over 22 years of marriage, it's safe to say that we have had our share of reasons for ending our marriage. Pornography struggles, financial mismanagement, mutual disrespect, aggressive behaviors, emasculation and mistrust just to name a few.

One thing we do know is that the feeling of unresolved hurt can paralyze a marriage, so you are not alone. Marriage has a way of bringing out a range of emotions that may have laid dormant in a person for years. Once a person feels that kind of pain they don't want to experience it again. Most people don't want a divorce, they just want the pain to end. When do you throw in the towel and walk away from the vow you made to God?

Marriage is an institution that God created and it has been taken too lightly, by too many and trusting God has been thrown out the window. It appears that examples in the bible of persistence, prayer and fasting are just fairy tales today. Oh, there is that scripture about forgiveness. Was it "7 x 70" ? Hmmmm...that must apply to other people.

Over the 20 years of doing marriage counseling we've found that 90% of couples should not have gotten married. Not because they didn't love each other or had a vision of living happily ever after, but because they just didn't know the truth about marriage and were not prepared. The hidden things about marriage comes out the second you both say "I Do".

Before saying "I Do", each couple must evaluate their unspoken and unresolved hurt from their past. Each must explore if their cup is empty from that hurt and they have healed from it, if not, counseling is needed.

Each couple before saying "I do" should be honest about the baggage that they are bringing into the marriage. For example, rejection issues, abandonment issues, trust issues and of course past hurts.

In many cases, the first fight, the first argument, the first sign of mistrust, the first lie comes from an unmet need which should have been met by someone else before marriage. The reality , however, is that most couples don't connect that their past experiences will directly impact their marriage, so when they say "I Do" they are saying "I Do" to their partner's past and they agree to accept everything that comes with it.

When is enough enough? This question must be answered with a series of questions. Did you get individual and/or marriage counseling? Was the counseling received consistent? Meaning were there for at least eight sessions conducted? Do you understand the spiritual attack on marriage and know how to respond spiritually? Have you thought about the long term effects on the children?

When is enough, enough? Our answer... til death do you part.

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Fruitful vs Functional MARRIAGE-What's The Difference??

A married friend of mine & I were talking the other day about her marriage. She's been contemplating ending her marriage and for right now she and her husband have been sleeping in separate rooms. In our talk, my friend mentioned that this seemed to be quite the norm lately with several couples she knows and was this wrong? These couples, much like her have decided to stay married for the sake of the children, but logistically, they live separate lives, sleeping in different bedrooms and managing the household more like business transactions.

I suggested to her that, while the sacrifice to stay under the same roof for the sake of the children was commendable, as so many couples nowadays just “jump ship” leaving behind several casualties of war-primarily the children, they have now entered into a functional marriage, but far from a fruitful marriage.

As I was discussing this with her, I gave her this example. If I decided to plant an apple tree in my back yard, it would be because at some point I am expecting this tree to produce apples so I can enjoy eating the fruit. Most people plant a fruit tree, expecting the tree to bear fruit at some time. Does the tree serve other purposes? Absolutely....It can provide shade. It can be a nice home for squirrels. It may be great to look at in a once desolate and empty back yard, all very functional purposes, but until the tree produces what it was made to produce, it is not a fruitful tree.

This analogy can also be true for marriage. Unfortunately, many people marry for functional reasons, such as what they may benefit from. for example, companionship, sex on a regular basis, financial support...all very functional reasons, but seldom do people marry in anticipation of how they will develop a fruitful marriage. What's the difference, you may ask? Well let's see.

In Genesis 1:27, 28, the bible says “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

So many marriages have physically fulfilled this directive from God, because as we all know, there are many, many children on this earth! Reproducing life is a blessing from God and represents the first part of this admonishment of being fruitful -physically, but what about emotionally and spiritually? We have the children, great, but is that it? Absolutely not! There are many, many other references in the bible that speak to the emotional and spiritual fruit that marriage is supposed to bear, but so little emphasis or preparation is made for this part.

Emotionally and spiritually, for example, the bible tells wives in His word in Ephesians 5:22 , “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ”. For the hubbies, God says in His word, “The husband provides leadership to his wife the way that Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing”..(Message Translation). Again, the emotional fruit for hubbies is their admonishment in verse 25, “Husbands, go all out in love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church, a love marked by giving, not getting..”. These are just a few examples, but there are so many more in God's word.

I suspect, so many marriages have failed to be fruitful emotionally and spiritually because it's not even on their radar to expect this kind of fruitfulness within their marriage. To do so would require intentional & deliberate desire to learn how. It would require each to seek after a deep relationship with Jesus Christ-for real...not for show. It would require pre-marriage preparation wherein each individual takes a deeper look at their potential role of husband and wife as God ordained, and seek council on how to interpret this behaviorally and practically within their marriage.

Let's not forget that God is the creator of marriage, so to get your marriage to a fruitful place emotionally and spiritually would require you to go back to the Creator. Derrick & I had to do so earlier in our marriage, but it didn't come without first repenting for not initially being intentional and deliberate about going to God for guidance and instructions on our roles in the first place.

The good news is that it's never too late to get it right. Forgiveness and grace may be needed, but isn't that what God has already extended to us anyway? Why not extend to our spouse what God has already given us in abundance?

May you be successful in your quest to learn how to have a fruitful marriage and if you already have children- the physical manifestation of your fruitfulness, they will then become the recipients of the fruit your emotional and spiritual marital growth. Children are our legacy, so isn't it imperative to have a fruitful marriage?

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Before I met Sonya I was Derrick and a single man. I lived my life as a single man to the fullest, as most men would.

Happiness to me was contingent on my circumstances and my environment. Happiness existed in pockets of my life. When I was around my parents and my siblings, that's what made me happy. When I went to work and my coworkers appreciated me, that's what made me happy. When I got my pay check, that's what made me happy. When I was with my boys and we were hanging out, that's what made me happy. When I was with women who had no commitment to me or the relationship, that's what made me happy. When I watched porn, that's what made me happy. That was what happiness meant to me as a single man.

I met Sonya in 1993 and we married on September 3, 1995. I expected that she and the marriage would make me happy.

The day of the wedding I had feelings of excitement, newness and hope for a better life. I was happy with the decision I made and happy with the circumstances that I received.

After the first 30 days of marriage I realized that I didn't make a mistake, I just didn't feel the happiness that I had once experienced.

Marriage didn't make me happy. My boys made me happy. My co-workers made me happy. My money made me happy. The porn made me happy. The other women made me happy, but marriage did not.

If you were to ask Sonya, she felt the same way. Her college friends brought her happiness, her family brought her happiness, her independence brought her happiness, her career brought her happiness, but Derrick didn't make her happy.

We married with the false expectation that the institution of marriage would bring us happiness. The first three years of our marriage almost ended in divorce, a phone call away from spending time in jail and footsteps away from court filing stay away orders.

So, what did we do? We put our big boy and big girl pants on and we talked. We took the word happiness out of our vocabulary for marriage and replaced it with the word "work". We had to work on redefining ourselves as a married couple. We had a “heart to heart” conversation about our definition of marriage and our expectations. We didn't know that we needed to learn how to be married.

The bottom line is, we had to learn how to be married and had to want to be married, it's that simple. In conducting marriage counseling for 20 years we have heard and seen it all as it relates to why people get married. The reasons vary. The biggest concern that we have is when singles say to us, "I just want to be happy".

Our response is, "let's talk before you say I do".

According to Encyclopedia of Psychology Research on Marriage & Divorce, 50 percent of marriage end in divorce. 60 to 67 percent of second marriages fail, and 70 to 73 percent of third marriages end on the rocks.

After 22 years of marriage we can honestly say we are happier people, not because the marriage was the catalyst. We are happier people because we both worked hard individually to understand ourselves, understand each other and understand the steps it takes to be selfless, forgive, respond to and share feelings, hear and meet the other’s needs, respect each other while making it safe and finally and most importantly, understanding who God is in our marriage.

A quote from John Newton reminds me to continue to look in the mirror. To look in the mirror at myself and not my marriage.

"I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am."

I am what I am. Always striving to make a better me while making a better marriage. For the record, marriage doesn't make you happy.

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