Imago relationship therapy and
Christian marriage counseling
JACOBUS HARMS DE KLERK
Presented as partial fulfillment for the degree
THEOLOGY SEMINARY AUCKLAND PARK
RAND AFRIKAANS UNIVERSITY
Faculty of Arts
Department Biblical and Religious Studies
Supervisor: Prof. W. J. Hattingh
Co-supervisor: Prof. H. Viviers
Marriage it seems has always been a key element in the family systems of the western world. The joining of two people of the opposite sex in a unity bond, with the purpose of creating a system to produce children and bring them to adulthood.
These marriage bonds usually start with a romantic love affair between the partners that lead to a permanent joining in some form of marriage. It is these long term bonds that seem to suffer from endless pursuits to find a way to be joined for a lifetime. In most of the western world the divorce rate between couples average fifty pe
People from all walks of life seem to suffer the same fate and Christians specifically do not seem to indicate a higher rate of marital success. The faith and biblical principals Christians adhere to is a strong motivator to keep people together but does not have all the practical answers for the co-habitation of to individuals in a long term relationship.
Christian marriage counseling possess several unique traits that enhances their counseling processes but does not indicate to have a significant higher success rate than an other form of marital counseling.
Imago relationship therapy is an approach to relationship counseling that offers some new ideas and methods. It combines several principals from different psychological therapeutic approaches into a unique relational approach. Based on the belief that the relationship is a systemic it approaches the couple as a unity and all therapy is done with both partners present. The approach uses several practical exercises to foster emotional connection between the partners and teach them new relational and communication skills.
This approach indicates a high success rate and seems to seamlessly flow with normal Christian counselling. The principals of Christian marriage counseling can be
OUTLINE OF CHAPTERS
1. PROBLEM STATEMENT, MOTIVATION FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH METHODS
1.1 Problem statement and motivation for study 1.2 Research methods
1.3 The structure of the study
2. THE IMAGO RELATIONSHIP THERAPY MODEL
2.1 The character and philosophy of Imago Relationship Therapy 2.2 The counseling aims of IRT
2.3 The power struggle 2.4 The building of an Imago
2.5 The theory behind Imago Relationship Therapy
2.6 The importance of regressive work and the implementation thereof in Imago Relationship Therapy
2.7 The concept of a marriage space between the couple 2.8 The role of the Therapist in IRT
2.9 The processes of Imago Relationship Therapy 2.10 Couples Workshops
2.11 The effectiveness of IRT
3. CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE COUNSELING 3.1 The character of Christian marriage counseling 3.2 Understanding marriage from a Christian perspective
3.3 What makes a happy marriage according to the Christian perspective 3.4 The reasons for marriage problems from a Christian perspective 3.5 The methods used in Christian marriage counseling
3.6 The role of the Pastor in Christian marriage Counseling 3.7 The problems of Christian marriage counseling
3.8 Tension Issues between biblical values and directives, and modern marriage perceptions in Christian marriage counseling
4. THE INTERACTION BETWEEN IMAGO RELATIONSHIP THERAPY AND CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE COUNSELING
4.1 How do the aims of IRT blend with the aims of Christian marriage counseling?
4.2 Departure points
4.3 Notable differences between IRT and Christian marriage counseling 4.4 Areas of harmony and enhancement
4.5 The dynamics of being one In Christ in marriage and facilitating personal growth
4.6 Interaction between IRT and Christian Marriage counselling with regard to personal growth
4.7 The role of the Pastor as Christian counselor and IRT 4.8 Conclusion
5 APPLICATION OF IMAGO RELATIONSHIP THERAPY IN A CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE COUNSELING PRACTICE
5.3 IRT and Spiritual ministry 5.4 Communication as prerequisite
5.5 The role of the Pastor or Counselor in the use of IRT 5.6 Guidelines for the use of IRT in Christian counseling 5.7 Cases where IRT may not be effective
6. CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY 6.1 Introduction
6.3 Conclusions with regards to the use of IRT in Christian marriage counseling 6.4 Recommendations for future study
PROBLEM STATEMENT, MOTIVATION FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH METHOD
1.1 RESEARCH PROBLEM AND MOTIVATION FOR STUDY
A family, based on a marriage between two heterosexual people that produces children in a family setting, is held in Christian circles as the norm and ideal. This may be especially true of the Christian cultures of the western world.
The communities of our day however, are experiencing a period of constant change with the dawn of the Post-modern generation where all things are perceived as relative and changeable. It seems that this has in recent times also affected the institution of the marriage, and that alternative structures of relationship and family set-ups are becoming more socially acceptable in the traditional Western Christian settings.
It seems as if the traditional view of the sacredness of marriage has become negotiable and relative in today’s world.
This is supported by the views expressed by Matthews and Hubbard. They concluded that in the present culture having possessions is being more highly valued than being in relationship and living in community. Furthermore they say that at some very prestigious academic institutions like Harvard and Yale, traditional Christian values are being rejected. “ Many distinguished academic, professional, and religious leaders have recently identified themselves specifically as advocates of alternative forms of family relationships, affirming marriage as only one of several acceptable options for family life” (Matthews & Hubbard, 2004:35).
Today the terms “single parent families and re-assembled families” are frequently used to refer to modern-day families, because divorce has become an acceptable solution for marriages that do not find harmony and happiness. This has resulted in a
community in South Africa, where divorced families are becoming socially more acceptable.
In our post-Christian world, the patterns of thinking and living that characterize the emerging culture carry the stamp of post-modern influence. This indicates that the value of the individual and his own needs for gratification is being put above all other values. The institution of marriage therefore is also considered to be in service of the individual. (Matthews & Hubbard 2004:35-40).
The church is facing a crisis in that it seems that dedication to Christian norms and values do not offer a guarantee against relationship failure. It also seems that a true belief in Jesus Christ and a conversion to the Christian faith is not an automatic safeguard against the factors that destroy families. This is evident from the high statistics of divorce among Christians. All indications are that the divorce rate among Christians is not significantly different from any other group (Matthews & Hubbard 2004:34).
Practical experience in the field seems to indicate that even a high percentage of members of the Clergy are battling to make their marriages survive.
A further complicating factor is identified: not all answers to modern-day marriage challenges can be derived and fully addressed from the Bible. The question needs to be asked whether the bible can serve as a marriage counsellor’s guide book. Christians also generally presume a working knowledge of Christian marriage and an understanding of Biblical references about marriage that in reality falls far short of the mark (Matthews & Hubbard 2004:153).
purpose of order and provision, into marriages of choice between consenting partners. This is confirmed by Matthews and Hubbard (2004:135 – 155).
These marriages, based on romantic love and personal need can be inherently unstable and may have turned sour because of disillusionment and conflict (Brown 1999).
These circumstances have resulted in a situation in our society, in which God’s original design of family structure is being amended. His original plan (as understood in Western Christian circles), which will create a secure environment for the marriage partners to find love and acceptance, in which children can thrive, is now disappearing. This general break-up of traditional family structures, is negative to the community, and hampers the growth and stability of the next generation.
Practical experience when working with divorcing couples indicates that, when marriage break-up happens to Christian families, it also creates questions around their faith, beliefs and values.
Indications are that divorce between Christians can influence the individuals relationship with God and result in a distancing and sometimes a divorce from God.
1.2 RESEARCH PROBLEM AND OBJECTIVES
It appears that the church, the clergy and Christian counsellors face the same difficulties in marriages as those faced by non-Christians. This emanates from the experience of Christian marriage counsellors and the high divorce rate among believers. This also seems to indicate that a belief in Jesus Christ, and the adherence to biblical and Christian values, does not necessarily guarantee that the person will be able to build a happy and strong relationship with someone in a marriage relationship.
The identification of the problem is that, although a relationship needs to be based on values and beliefs, it also needs personal and relational skills in order to build a happy
marriage. It is assumed that the tools needed to make a marriage happy, might be contemporary and culturally bound, and should be acquired and learned. These skills might not all be available and easily extracted from the Bible, and might not necessarily be a result from normal Christian marriage counseling. .
Christian marriage counselling, as it is termed, does not claim to be more effective than any other method of counseling. The problem therefore is that our methods of application seem not to be able to harness to power of God in such a way as to make Christian counseling more effective than other forms of counselling.
The subject area to be investigated is to see whether it is possible to enhance Christian marriage counseling by means of the use of another model to facilitate a greater effectiveness.
This study will endeavour to examine the use of a model that will help a couple to develop the necessary relational and personal skills needed to build a happy and fulfilling Christian marriage relationship.
1.3 RESEARCH METHOD
A brief literature study of the Imago Relationship Therapy model ( IRT) will be done to give an overview of the values, methods and aims of Imago Relationship Therapy. This study will be motivated, with reference to specific case studies from publications and from the writer’s personal relationship/counseling practice.
The character of Christian marriage Counseling as practised in Christian circles today will be explained with reference to its problems and shortcomings.
The writer will endeavour to establish whether IRT is a usable model in Christian marriage counseling with reference to possible problems and limitations. He will conclude with general guidelines, and comments, with reference to usable methods.
1.4 THE STRUCTURE OF THE STUDY
Chapter two focuses on IRT to show its contemporary style and eclectic use of different strengths derived from the various approaches in psychology. IRT will be explained so that the reader will understand the importance of establishing a connection between the couple in therapy and thereby creating a healing environment for the individual as well as for the relationship.
Chapter three will focus on the character of Christian marriage counseling as practised today. Specific problems and shortcomings as experienced by therapists will be highlighted.
Some areas of conflict between contemporary views on marriage and biblical values will be addressed. The study will look at the problem issues between biblical values and directives, and modern marriage perceptions within the context of Christian marriage counseling. The views concerning the role of a wife in marriage, will receive attention in this chapter to show the dilemma we face with the move to modern-day relationship and family structures.
Attention will be given to the biblical directives concerning marriage and relationships and whether they are models or values.
Chapter four will focus on the interaction between IRT and Christian marriage counseling, and look at possible differences and/or similarities between the two. This will be done in order to establish whether IRT has sufficient harmonies with biblical values to be used in Christian marriage counseling.
Chapter five will be dedicated to the application of IRT in Christian marriage counseling. Attention will be given to usable techniques and their aims in counseling with reference to what biblical values would be emphasized by using that technique.
Some case studies will be added to highlight and motivate the principles and aims of therapy. This should help the Christian counselor to evaluate if IRT can be used to create a healing environment in the marriage, and which methods he/she can use to achieve certain counseling goals.
The end goal will be to establish if the IRT model is a usable model in Christian marriage counseling.
Chapter six will be dedicated to conclusions and a summary of the study. Certain recommendations and possible future study will be indicated.
This study will use the English spelling rules in US format and the Harvard reference method as per Kilian (1989).
THE IMAGO RELATIONSHIP THERAPY MODEL
2.1 The character and philosophy of Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago is best described by Luquet and Hannah (1998:13): “Imago Relationship Therapy is a relational paradigm approach that is designed to increase couple communication, correct developmental arrests, heal wounds from childhood, and promote differentiation of the partners, while restoring the connection between them”.
Luquet and Hendrix (1998) add that Imago is a relational model of couple therapy that utilizes behavioral, affective, and cognitive interventions to facilitate understanding and change within the dyad.
The purpose of IRT is to restore the original spiritual and emotional connection between the partners as individuals to create a new purpose for the marriage. The aim is to create a healing environment or living space in which each partner can heal from his/her needs that have not been met (unmet needs) and feelings of neglect and worthlessness.
IRT uses a set of communication tools built around the basic Couple’s dialogue technique, to create a new way of communication between the partners.
2.2 The counseling aims of Imago Relationship Therapy
IRT processes recreate the connection that was lost in childhood between the person and his/ her caretakers, one that became severed again in the couple’s power struggle. Luquet and Hannah (1998:16) state that IRT guides the couple in using the partnership as a resource for healing, problem solving and growth, enabling greater personal fulfillment as the partners deepen their connection.
The main focus is to create a healing connection. This becomes possible only when there is enough emotional safety between the partners. To create this safety, the damaging, bruising and degrading habits must be removed from the relationship.
One of the main differences between Imago and other approaches to therapy, is that IRT sees the couple, rather than the pathology of the individual as the centre and the client.
The essence of how Imago sees relationship and the individual therein is probably best illustrated by the word of Harville Hendrix:
“Imago therapists operate from the assumption that when connection is restored and stabilized, what appears to be individual or systemic pathology disappears. They believe that the therapeutic method that achieves this healing is a dialogue process that enables the couple to break their symbiotic fusion, differentiate as separate selves, drop their projections, and connect with the subjective reality of each other ” (Harville Hendrix in Brown, R 1999:XI).
Brown (1991:18) describes Imago as: “The heart of Imago therapy is helping couples learn to safely connect to each other and have more empathy for one another’s pain through the specific intentional tool – the couple’s dialogue”.
Hannah M.T. et al, (1997) state, that the healing is achieved in part by creating empathy for each other’s “woundedness”, and that IRT also includes psycho-educational processes designed to facilitate a paradigm shift, which enables couples to view their relationship from a new and more positive perspective. This is done through short lectures in combination with the IRT techniques.
The counseling aims of IRT focus on changing the relationship between the partners to an environment where healing can take place for the individual. This healing occurs through the connection and empathy between them, when they see each other’s pain.
2.3 The Power-struggle
The power-struggle refers to the unique unconscious process within every couple where one or both of the partners fight to get their unmet needs and longings fulfilled.
The power-struggle usually consists of one or both partners accusing the other of doing things that hurt him or her, or accusing the other of not doing the things necessary for the relationship. The Power-struggle is therefore a pattern of recurring actions and re-actions in the relationship driven by the unconscious cry of each partner’s unmet and unknown desires.
Luquet and Hendrix (1998) describe this as a process where each partner is seeking to be understood by the other. The partners get frustrated because the other is also suffering from the same competing wounds. This prevents them from seeing the other, but leads them into a self-absorbed state, where they start to focus on themselves and begin to generate cognitive distortions and ideas about the other.
This unconscious power struggle is what destroys the intimacy and pushes the couple apart. This could very well be the key to understanding all relational problems.
2.4 The Building of an Imago
Imago is a Latin word that means “image” specifically, the final stage of a butterfly after metamorphosis. The basic philosophy behind IRT is that every human being forms an unconscious picture of the ideal caretaker, during his interaction with his primary caretakers in childhood. This picture is called an IMAGO.
During childhood the caretakers can never fulfill all the needs of the child and will unwillingly and mostly unknowingly, hurt the child by not fulfilling the childhood needs, or emotionally wound the child because of their own disabilities or wounds.
The child will, all through adulthood, long to complete these childhood stages, and heal the childhood wounds. She/he will form a picture of the ideal life partner that will be able to understand his or her own childhood wounds and unmet needs. This Imago picture embodies the good and bad characteristics of the caretakers.
When in later adult life a person is met who fits this Imago picture, the individual will fall in love with that person. This is motivated by the “unconscious” desires to complete the unmet needs of childhood. A person therefore chooses someone with the same basic unmet childhood needs and experience. This is certainly confirmed by
Brown (1999:9) who says: “We tend to be drawn to someone who has similar positive and negative traits to that of our early childhood caretakers”.
Because the chosen person is usually a person with the same type of childhood wounds and unmet needs, he/she is therefore by definition the person who would best understand the make-up of the other. Such a person is, in reality, the person least able to fulfill those needs, because they are also struggling to heal from their own unmet needs in childhood.
This healing can only occur in a relationship. Brown emphasizes the importance of this concept in a relationship. “The healing that needs to occur, will only occur in the context of a relationship, the person then chooses an Imago partner with whom to complete this childhood journey of unmet needs” (Brown 99:16).
This longing to heal is the primary source of the power-struggle in a relationship when each partner is manipulating or unconsciously trying to force the other partner to fulfill his or her unmet needs.
This process is described by Pat Love and Sunny Shulkin, as a process in which we are attracted to the person who brings us the form of love that feels familiar, for better or worse. We unconsciously partner with a person who has the same negative characteristics of our caretakers (i.e. smothering, neglect, controlling etc.). If we could get that person to love instead of abandoning or controlling us, it would feel as if we are finishing the unfinished business of childhood or completing the gestalt. “Our earliest experiences with caregivers gave us our impressions of love and connection. Through interactions with the people who raised us, we formed our expectations of relationships. These expectations live with us today and color our experiences with others – especially a primary love partner” (Love & Shulkin 2001:67).
Although these factors fuel romantic love, they also constitute emotional and characterological incompatibility, precipitating a power struggle in the relationship. It
The following exercise can be used to establish your own IMAGO (Adapted from the work of Harville Hendrix and Pat Love):
A. Thinking back to your childhood from birth to 18 years, list some of the negative Characteristics of the people who raised or influenced you (for example: angry, withholding, depressed, critical, busy, abusive, rigid)
Now choose the three most important ones ______________ ______________ _______________.
B. Now list their positive characteristics (e.g. loving, caring, affectionate, supportive, present, nurturing, funny, giving, smart) ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________
Now choose the three most important ones ______________ ______________ _______________.
C. Think back to your childhood and how life was for you. Recall what you wanted and needed most as a child, specifically your heart’s desire (for example: to be seen, to have a normal family, get attention, to be hugged, to be accepted, to be valued, to be to be praised, etc).
Now choose the three most important ones ______________ ______________ _______________.
D. Now recall the happiest memories of childhood. These can be with your family, friends, in school, etc. Then list how you felt during these happy times
(for example: happy, loved, valued, competent, confident, excited, secure, and calm).
Now choose the three most important ones ______________ ______________ _______________.
E. Finally think back on the frustrations of childhood, not just with your family, with anyone, and describe how you responded to the frustrations (for example: by getting angry, withdrawing, trying harder, keeping to myself, giving up, blaming myself, blaming others, fighting, taking care of myself, etc.).
Now choose the three most important ones ______________ ______________ _______________.
After you have completed the entire exercise please enter the words, from the most important fields, into the spaces listed below to get a picture of your IMAGO
I am attracted to a person who is: (words from a)______________ ______________ _____________________, and I expect him/her to be (words from b) ________________ __________________ _________________, so that I can get (words from c) ______________ _____________ ______________, and feel (words from d) _____________ ________________ ____________, But I stop myself from getting this sometimes by(words from e)_______________ ______________ _____________.
2.5 The Theory behind Imago Relationship Therapy
To understand relationships and the dynamics behind our instinctive behavior it is important to understand the meta-theory behind Imago Relationship Therapy.
A child is born with full vitality (aliveness) and energy to learn about his/her world. In this process of learning, the child interacts with his/her primary caretakers and learns through them about his/her world and how to react to it.
This learning journey prepares the child to function as an adult in this world, and live in relationships. If the caregivers are able to keep the child safe through all of his/her journeys, he/she will learn that the world and relationships is a safe place to be.
The opposite is also true. When a child has to fight for survival through these journeys he/she will perceive the world and relationships as an unsafe place where one cannot be one’s true self but be on the defense mode all the time to survive.
In the writer’s view it is important to understand the four personal journeys as described by Brown (1999:23-50). These concepts form the basis upon which the theory is built.
2.5.1 The cosmic journey
People are in essence energy or life pulsating and living, and spreading that energy to the world around them. The natural state of a human being is that of relaxed joyfulness, living in harmony with his/her surroundings.
This energy affects all others because we are all connected in one universe. When people in relationships influence each other’s state of relaxed joyfulness, and upset it, they adapt. Some people tend to become quiet and hold in their energy (Minimizers) and others expand their energy (Maximizers). These adaptations happen as soon as people feel unsafe in relationships, usually because of conflict.
Minimizers will withdraw as soon as they are frightened or scared, or as soon as the relationship is perceived as unsafe. Maximizers are the people who would then tend to
chase after the Minimizers and try to get him/her to enter the process of trying to solve the differences.
The two types of people are both human responses to feeling unsafe. When the Maximizers go’s after the Minimizers it is because of feelings of abandonment and hurt. When the Minimizers retreat, it is because of the fear of being overwhelmed. The other person or body of energy is perceived as a person who disturbs my state of relaxed joyfulness. As long as a person feels unsafe he will react in one of these two ways, and will focus on protecting himself, rather than fulfilling the needs of the other person.
This difference between the partners is utilized and normalized in IRT as part of the mate selection process and consequent growth promotion of the marriage (Zielinski 2000).
IRT uses this analogy to illustrate that we choose the opposite adaptation to help us heal from that what we lost in childhood. The differences between the partners are therefore not cause for divorce but normalized as an opportunity and unconscious cry for growth.
2.5.2 The Evolutionary Journey
People and animals share some of the same basic natural responses to the world, usually directed by instinct or the unconscious. These responses could be described as twofold. When the world is unsafe one wants to protect oneself and when it is safe one wants to enjoy life.
The three basic responses of any creature to danger are flee, fight or freeze. Animals do this as a basic response to danger.
When humans experience a relationship as unsafe they follow the same basic responses of fight, flee or freeze, to protect themselves and stay alive. This occurs in
This principle is embodied by the words of Brown: “If therapists do not understand that the quest for survival is the only thing that happens in marital relationships, they do not understand couples: All couples are trying to do is survive” (Brown 1999:42).
When the relationship and environment is safe the opposite response is triggered. Brown describes it as follows: “When people experience their environment and relationships as safe, they want to do three things, play, nurture, and mate - that is to make love” (Brown 1999:32).
“While survival is the primary drive or mandate operating in all living creatures, human beings also operate under a secondary mandate. And that is, "If you can stay alive, why not enjoy your aliveness?” (Brown 1999:32)
The human desire or instinct to stay alive, plays an important role in the application of the theory of Imago. It stems from the belief that all humans long to regain a state of relaxed joyfulness in connection.
The human brain has evolved over the ages. Differences in functioning, in different aspects of the brain, influence and dictate how we will function in relationships.
Hannah, et al (1997) describe the human brain as a tripartite brain and this is confirmed by the findings of Brown who describes the human brain as tri-layered (Brown 1999:35). This view of brain functioning and its effect on safety in a relationship, is briefly described as below.
The three parts of the brain are: the brain stem, limbic system and the cortex. The brain stem is also referred to as the reptilian brain because it handles automatic functions such as taking a breath and moving muscles to keep us alive in all situations.
The limbic system is also referred to as the mammalian layer. This part of the brain activates centers of intense anger or rage and pain, all in the service of staying alive.
The third part of the brain is called the cortex, and enables one to think thoughts, and to think about those thoughts. A human is the only species that can think about the fact that she/he is thinking or reflect on and evaluate his actions.
If the reptilian and mammalian brains are combined we can refer to them as the old brain and the cortex as the “new brain”. This old part of the brain has little or no awareness of time and space. The old brain’s function is to keep the conditions safe. When conditions are safe, the person experiences “relaxed joyfulness”. If conditions are unsafe it automatically responds with a defensive posture and depending on the perceived danger, constricts energy (freezing, hiding or submitting), or explodes energy by fleeing or fighting (Hendrix & Hunt 1999:173).
Couples tend to live most of their lives using the old brain. This means that they do not live intentionally in their actions towards each other, but live reactively to the actions of each other. This will always lead to the “power-struggle”.
The therapist must help the partners to relax and reflect on the old brain impulses before they react, and teach them to start living intentionally. In order to achieve this, some level of safety needs to be present so that the partners can drop their defensive patterns and focus on pleasurable actions. When energy does not go into staying alive, more energy is available for enjoying aliveness.
When couples start to live intentionally in their relationship, they will create safety. This safety will automatically lead to partners opening up to one another and they will begin to feel more intimate and connected. They will also begin to feel more vulnerable and this could lead them to close up again to protect themselves. This could become a cycle.
Therapists often find, that as soon as couples open up to one another and show some piece of themselves to the other, they become afraid and would say: “Now I am afraid he/she has more ammunition to shoot me with the next time we fight”.
memory of pain or negative experience. Most individuals have had negative experiences within relationships and are influenced by these memories.
2.5.3 Psychological journey
Parents do their best to keep their offspring alive in their journey to adulthood. This they do by keeping the child warm, fed, nurtured and safe. No parent can always in all circumstances fulfill every need of the child on a continual basis. The parents will inevitably miss some of the needs and leave the child feeling neglected and UN-cared for.
“In their efforts to nurture and keep children alive, many parents are intentionally or unintentionally guilty of sins of omission or commission. They inevitably wound us in one way or the other” (Brown 1999:45).
Children form an experience of their parents and from that form an Imago, which embodies the positive and negative character traits of the parents. This picture might not always be the truth, but that becomes irrelevant, because the picture is formed through the perceptions of the child.
The psychological journey starts with birth where the child’s need is to bond with the mother. This stage is called attachment. The journey is completed when the child reaches the age of 19 and completes the intimacy stage.
In each phase the child has different needs, or cares, that he /she must get met by the parents in order to develop as a person and complete that particular human development.
For example: If a child is busy with the competence phase, he needs the parent to be consistently there watching him, giving positive and constructive feedback. This will boost his confidence and allow him to explore his/her own limits. If the parent is an overcritical person or an absent person the child will adapt his/her behavior to survive and might not complete that particular stage successfully.
The theory of Imago suggests that the person will unconsciously try to complete that particular childhood stage in the relationship with the spouse. Such a person will unconsciously marry a critical person in the hope of successfully completing his/her competence issues in the hope that the spouse will give the necessary love attention and positive feedback to build a competent self image.
When a child experiences feelings of rejection and abandonment in the attachment phase or feeling smothered or neglected at the exploration stage, it will result in wounds in his developmental self (or unfinished developmental tasks). As a result children may come to fear their own impulses and deny them to consciousness resulting in a denied self. To avoid further need frustration they may adapt by either exploding (Maximizer) or constricting (Minimizer) their energy. These adaptation characteristics often result in the development of a presentational self who projects its denied traits onto others, and connects with others whose complementary functions were impaired. This will however not be satisfactory and results in a continual search for the missing self (Hendrix & Hunt, 1999).
Unless the situation is relieved these patterns will become dominant character structures and defense patterns, which are brought into adult relationships.
The theory around this cannot be described in full in this study but can be found in the work of Joyce Buckner as published in The training Manua1 of Hendrix, H. 1979 and in the work of Hendrix ( 1992:51-100)
2.5.4 Social journey
Socialization is an important factor to consider when relationship therapy is undertaken, because it affects the make-up of a person. Socialization is the process where a person’s true self and natural energy are formed and shaped into a form that is socially acceptable to the parents and the social structure.
The child expresses his own energy through an expression of feelings, sensing, thinking and actions. The parent reacts with responsive messages to these expressions, which either builds wholeness in the child or creates repression.
For example: if a boy has a natural energy and instinctive desire to dance and is naturally attracted to a life in the arts of dancing or ballet, it is possible that his parents and social structure could find this undesirable. They would then naturally give him the message that such desires, senses, feelings and thinking is wrong and bad and therefore should not be a part of him. The child will then try to disown that part of himself in order to be socially acceptable.
In most social cultures, boys are encouraged not to express their feelings of sadness and pain in front of their parents with words like “Boys don’t cry”, or “Don’t be such a sissy”. This type of behavior leads the child to feel rejected and guilty because he is experiencing these feelings and naturally leads him to disowning his feelings and senses. Girls, on the other hand, are allowed in most Western cultures to experience feelings of sadness and pain without fear of rejection.
The Psycho-Social Journey of the Self
Attachment Exploration Identity Competence Concern Intimacy Responsibility 0 - 18 Months 18 Months - 3 years 3 - 4 years 4 - 7 years 7 - 13 years 13 - 19 years 20 + years
This socialization influences relationships, because it often leads to a situation where the woman is in touch with her own feelings, but cannot connect with her husband on an emotional level. The man on the other hand, has been repressed in the area of emotions his whole life, and either does not know what he is feeling or cannot access that part of his being.
Other messages of repression that parents send out are: “children should be seen and not heard”, “keep your opinions to yourself”, “what were you thinking”, “you did not think”, etcetera.
Brown (1999:49) emphasizes the severity of this behaviour with his words: “Parents who attempt to socialize their youngsters by continually giving them messages about what they should and should not do with their energy are actually mutilating their children with the best of intentions. They are cutting off pieces of their children every time they communicate the messages: don’t feel, don’t think, don’t enjoy your body, and don’t move.”
This often produce adults who are repressed in certain areas of their lives, and unconsciously project these needs and feelings onto the partner in marriage.
2.5.5 Adaptations and Survival Strategies
No parent is perfect, and because most adults are struggling with their own issues in life and relationships, it seems unlikely that the parents will be able to fulfill all the needs of the child. When a child does not get the care, feedback, correct messages and love he needs to be happy and fully alive, he will make adaptations to stay alive. These adaptations are done on an unconscious level and can be referred to as survival strategies.
For example: a child that lives in a critical home environment where his actions, success and performance are constantly criticized by caregivers in an effort to
other adaptation would be to withdraw and believe that any attempt to succeed is not worth the effort because one would be criticized anyway.
The child will long to complete this childhood phase and will continue to look for a caregiver (marriage partner) with whom he can complete that childhood phase.
Brown stresses the importance of these concepts in marriage when he says: “The adaptations that the child has adapted to stay alive become life patterns and will be brought into the marriage relationship. Unfortunately, however, what we learn to do as children in our response to our pain and what worked for us as children to help us stay alive, does not work for us in relationships” (Brown 1999:57).
2.5.6 Exit Theory
The energy of a relationship is between the partners. The dynamics and specific pattern of interaction within each couple is unique to every couple. This interaction can be referred to as a marriage dance. When the marriage space (atmosphere between the couple) becomes unsafe, one or both partners will begin to exit the relationship intimacy on a regular basis in order to avoid being intimate with the person they do not feel safe with.
These exits range from work to children, and could involve anything that is a passion, chore, responsibility, calling or pleasure. It becomes an exit when the person uses the passion or responsibility as an excuse to keep busy and avoid intimacy.
People exit intimacy because of fear and anger. Anger stems from the realization that the partner is committed to his own salvation and is not focused on the other. Fear stems from the unconscious fear of being alone and intimate with someone you feel emotionally unsafe with (Hendrix 1993).
Hendrix (1993:138) points out that the therapist should lead the couple into a “no-exit” decision for a period of three months. In this process the dynamics of the relationship will surface as the “Fuser” in the relationship will relax because of the commitment and the “Isolator” will feel threatened because of the commitment.
2.6 The importance of regressive work and the implementation thereof in Imago Relationship Therapy
The concept of childhood wounds or unmet needs in IRT is generally built upon the seven stages of childhood development as described by Joyce Buckner (1991).
Because parents are people themselves from homes with their own problems and shortcomings – no parent is perfect. The caretakers can never fulfill all the needs of the child and will unwillingly and unknowingly hurt the child by not fulfilling the childhood needs. Some parents inevitably wound their children emotionally because of their own disabilities or wounds or own unmet needs.
Wright (1981:153) seems to support this concept when he says that unmet needs in childhood develop into rigid behavior patterns. These patterns are called frozen needs, because they recur over and over, and they cannot be met in the present.
The processes of IRT allow the couple to return to these hurtful experiences, within the safety of a relationship other than with the therapist, and to heal them.
The techniques of IRT are designed in a way that will foster safety, and keep the partners from projecting their own pain and fear onto each other. They learn to contain the pain and hurt of the other person in safety. The healing then occurs in and through the relationship.
When partners see the childhood pain and the hurt of unmet needs, empathy is created, which seems to automatically create a connection and bond between the couple.
This could for example be done by means of a short lecture on the value of empathy and its healing value and then the partners can role-play the “parent” and “child” of their own childhood. They will use the Imago “parent Child Dialogue “which will typically produce in the listener an empathic experience of the other person’s
Couples can also use frustrations with each other as a means to establish connection. Hendrix and Hunt (1999:188) state: “In Imago therapy, frustrations are considered the royal road to the unconscious, which provides a glimpse into unresolved issues from childhood”.
2.7 The concept of a marriage space between the partners
The relationship between partners is different to the relationship between the individual partners and other people. This relationship could be referred to as a marriage space in which the couple lives. This marriage space must at all times be a safe space or atmosphere to be in.
When this space becomes unsafe because of aggression, agitation or non-fulfilment of one or both of the partners, the intimacy between the couple will deteriorate and thereby diminish any possibility of deep communication and connection between the partners. This is confirmed by Zielinski: “The average couple in treatment brings out the worst in each other and often the individuals appear to have personality disorders when interacting with each other” (Zielinski 2000:66).
If the space is unsafe, people cannot be themselves but rather live under constant fear of rejection and either becomes aggressive or compliant in order to be accepted, but the true nature of the person is denied. This can be referred to as personal adaptations to the true nature of a person.
It is in this “safe Space” that personal healing and growth can take place. The need for personal growth in a relationship space is confirmed by Luguet and Hannah when they say:” To fulfill each other’s desires, partners have to grow past defensive adaptations and characterological limitations, thus enhancing their own personal growth” (Luquet & Hannah 1998:15).
This space is created by the other partner, by unconditionally accepting the other person and learning to “contain” that person’s wounds, hurts, fears and anger. In traditional views on marriage, couples are required to sacrifice, protect and respect each other. This inevitably means that some of what they are, who they are and what they are feeling and experiencing will not be welcomed in the relational space. When
such undesirable characteristics or feelings are expressed, rejection will take place and the person will be re-wounded. This will lead to a person internalizing such feelings and experiences, and lead to disconnecting from the partner. Such relationships therefore grow into parallel relationships, or symbiotic relationships.
Traditional views on marriage are often indicated by the sketches above.
Marriage is not something that can or should be fixed. It should be viewed as a space for healing and growth. This can best be illustrated by the following sketch (De Klerk 2003:49).
Traditional views on marriage
Individuals traveling together
Marriage is areas of Sacrifice, give and take.
We are one
The Imago view on Marriage
Others Sacred Space
The importance of safety in order for the true person of the individual to be authentic to what he/she is feeling and experiencing, and being able to be all of that in the relationship, is confirmed by the words of Hendrix and Hunt (1999:172): “It is the character of the connection, namely, whether it is safe or dangerous, that sustains or ruptures the organization of the individual psyche and that, in turn, maintains or disturbs connection. The prevailing ontology of separation is thus amended, by ontology of relationship”.
If the marriage space is sanctified the true person will reveal himself in that safety, and intimacy will occur. Young and Long (1998:9) confirm this by stating that intimacy is a hallmark of a couple relationship –“ a relationship defined by mutual self-disclosure and an understanding of the other person in a partnership of equals.” Moreover they state that the degree to which a couple can express closeness is strongly influenced by the needs and expectations both parties have developed in their respective families of origin.
“Concerning the safety aspect in the marriage each partner in a relationship should feel safe enough to turn to the other partner in times of stress. The creation of such a safety in the relationship is one of the seven Psychological tasks that a relationship must develop. This specific task of safety is of importance because individuals who do not have their need for safety and nurturing met may be prone to exit from the relationship or seek to have their needs met in an extramarital affair “(Young & Long 1998:16) .
2.8 The Role of the Therapist in IRT
In IRT, the dynamics and the work is between the partners. The therapist has no opinion and advice to give other than to point out the pattern of the relationship and to guide the couple in the dialogues. “An Imago Therapist is a person who manages a process so that the couple is empowered to become each other’s therapist “ (Brown 1999:xx).
IRT is therefore not marriage advice, nor relationship counseling but rather a therapeutic process where the therapist is the couch.
The imago therapist does not analyze, diagnose or try to interpret what makes a client act in a certain way. Instead the Imago therapist engages the partners in the dialogue process. When empathy occurs between the couple, healing of the childhood wounds seems to happen inevitable (Brown 1999).
Harville and Hunt (1999) point out that the therapist should discern the underlying wound, developmental arrests, and presence of the lost self in the partner’s complaint. The therapist could give the sender a stimulus for his message through the use of sentence stems which would elicit a recollection of the wound like “ and that reminds me of…”.
One of the tasks of an IRT therapist is therefore to keep all exchanges between the couple in the session dialogical. It is important that the IRT therapist should never take sides or engage in traditional diagnostic judgments, because insight is secondary to connection, which is the first aim of IRT. The therapist should therefore always have as a first priority the aim to keep the space (relationship environment) safe (Harville & Hunt 1999).
It becomes a crucial mistake when the therapist allows one of the partners to turn to the therapist, and talk about the other partner. This breaks the connection between the couple and creates a connection with the therapist, as pointed out by Hendrix (1979).
The therapist is therefore not the healer, but the relationship is the therapy. The healing does not take place within the Therapist-client partnership, as with traditional approaches. Harville and Hunt (1999) point out that the traditional tools of interpretation, analysis, confrontation, and other invasive transactions, along with the anxiety they evoke, are absent in this approach.
A degree in one of the Mental Health professions is necessary for admission to the training program. The specific requirements for becoming a certified IRT Therapist are outlined by Harville and Hunt (1999:184).
2.9 The Processes of Imago Relationship Therapy
“IRT is not a series of techniques, but a belief system about committed partnership” (Zielinski 2000:104).
2.9.1 The main tool
The main tool is the basic couple’s dialogue technique. By means of this dialogue the couple is trained to listen to each other and to express themselves in a three-part process. This is done by asking one partner to speak (becomes the sender) and the other to listen (becomes the receiver).
This process is explained by Luquet and Hannah (1998:13) as follows:
Firstly, the partner who listens cannot answer or respond but rather mirrors exactly what the speaking partner says, by answering “ I hear you say…”. This is no easy task, because typically the receiving partner is feeling emotionally reactive to what the sending partner is saying. After the receiving partner has mirrored the sending partner, he responds with “ Tell me more…”
When the sender has completed his story the receiver gives a summary of what he has heard.
Secondly, the receiver is required to validate what the sender has said. This validation process does not mean that the receiver agrees with what the sender has said, nor does it indicate that what the sender has said might be the truth. It is rather an attempt by the receiver to understand the sender’s point of view. The receiver tries to understand the sender’s point of view by replying “It makes sense to me that you could….” Or “ I can understand that you could see it that way…”
Thirdly, the receiver expresses empathy and tries to guess the sender’s feelings around the subject. Empathy is really to put yourself in the shoes of the other person for a moment and to understand and experience his/her world for a moment. This can be done by the receiver saying: “I imagine that you might be feeling …” Harville and Hunt (1999) point out that the movement to validation often requires a clinical judgment by the therapist that the couple is ready to do it.
The partners then switch and the receiver become the sender and the sender the receiver.
This process accomplishes that the sender feels heard and understood, which automatically creates intimacy and connection between the partners. It also teaches the receiver to contain his/ her reactivity and more accurately hear what the sending partner is saying.
The big advantage of using the couple’s dialogue technique is that it creates safety in the space between the partners and removes the factors that usually lead to aggression or the exit of one or both partners.
When the partners start to see their own wounding and that of the other they begin to understand their own marriage pattern and can then, consciously, begin to heal the other’s unmet need and wounds.
2.9.10 Other tools in IRT
Other tools in IRT includes container days, re-romanticizing, flooding and creating a positive vision for the relationship.
The container process is considered one of the most difficult processes of IRT and is usually carried out under the supervision of a therapist. The container exercise allows the sending partner to express anger while the receiving partner listens with as much empathy as possible. The purpose is that anger received in empathy softens into hurt, which brings opportunity for healing.
Re-romanticizing is the process where the couple intentionally reinstates romantic behaviors they exhibited naturally in the early relationship. It is a mutual exchange of pleasure in the relationship with the intention that the partner should become a source of pleasure and be seen as non-threatening.
Flooding is the process whereby the partners learn to express positive praise and appreciation with the absence of negative comments, and thus flood each other with caring behaviors.
When the couple creates a positive vision for the marriage together, it helps the partners to have a road map for their relationship journey together.
2.9.11 Applications of the basic Couple’s dialogue
The basic couple’s dialogue is a powerful tool and can be applied to any issue or situation in a relationship. The couple’s dialogue can be adapted to achieve different aims in the counseling process. For example, when a couple is on the brink of a divorce, the therapist could lead them into a dialogue where they start with the words “ Why it is difficult for me to live with you….”. Many times this will be the first opportunity that partners have to express themselves clearly concerning their feelings.
The dialogue can also be used in a positive way: “ How I feel about you is…”.
This basic tool can be adapted to any situation or relevant topic in the relationship or even topics outside of the relationship that will still cause connection.
2.9.12 The basic Dialogues techniques used in IRT
The following list of applications of the basic dialogue models has been compiled and adapted by the author (De Klerk 2003:48) from the work of several writers. The “Couples workshop manual” by Harville Hendrix (1997) was used as a basis:
• Couples / Intentional Dialogue
This basic couple’s dialogue is used to establish a safe, sacred space in the relationship. It is not for problem-solving, i.e. not about problem-solving at all. The aim is to create understanding and make the space safe to facilitate communication. With difficult couples (where the space is very unsafe) the following sentence stems could be used:
“Why I think it is difficult to live with and be married to myself....” “Why I cannot continue this marriage the way we do…”
• Parent Child Dialogue
Harville and Hunt (1999) describe this process as re-imaging the partner. The aim is to re-image the partner as wounded rather than dangerous. This dialogue will deepen childhood memories. It will create empathy between the partners and allow a partner to understand the other partners childhood pain. This helps the receiving partner to recognize the wounded child in the other. The couple role-plays and one partner takes the role of one of the parents.
Using the basic dialogue technique, the sender speaks to the receiver as his parent. The receiving partner mirrors everything in the first person. Sentence stems to direct the sender could be:
“You are my Mom/ Dad. Living with you is…”
• Behavior change request dialogue (BCR)
This process teaches each partner how to express their individual needs in a constructive manner that will deepen the understanding between them. It is a way to keep the marriage space safe while talking about frustrations.
Harville and Hunt (1999) explain that this dialogue helps partners to express their needs without using criticism, devaluation or intimidation. Using the basic dialogue technique, the receiving partner responds by agreeing to specific behavior changes as an unconditional gift.
This facilitates mutual growth, since what one partner needs is usually the most difficult to give. The giver, by stretching into the requested behavior, activates the denied or repressed parts of childhood. In this way partners call each other to mutual wholeness and growth.
This can usually only be done with the help of a trained IRT therapist. The couple will start with small issues/frustrations in the coach’s presence at first and learn to express those needs in safety. The therapist will then lead the sender to discover the childhood unmet needs that trigger the frustration.
This enables partners to understand the motive and childhood pain behind the frustration, and give insight that 90% of what frustrates us about our partner actually comes from our own past and only 10% is about the present behavior. This is referred to as the 90/10 principle. These dialogues can typically be started with sentence stems like:
“It frustrates me when you…” “The reason it frustrates me is…”
Or “From my perspective your deepest frustration with me is…”
• Forgiveness/ Making Amends dialogue
This dialogue gives a partner the opportunity to say sorry for past hurts in safety. It can be used when one partner wants to ask forgiveness for doing something that has happened or that he/she has done to hurt the relationship or the other partner.
• No exit Dialogue
This dialogue is designed to build safety and commitment in the relationship. It should follow a short lecture on the exits that people use to stay out of intimacy. It is preferable to do this dialogue very early on, in the therapy process. It will help the couple to block all energy leaking from their relationship space. A typical sentence stem would be:
• Owning dialogue ?
When couples have difficulty in speaking to each other because of a lack of safety, start the dialogue with this question.
Sentence stem that could introduce this is: “Why it is difficult to live with me…” or “ What is it like living with me…”
• Expressing appreciation Dialogue
This dialogue teaches couples to express appreciation without allowing frustrations to be mixed with the appreciation. It develops the couple and teaches them to give appreciation to each other and the value there-of in the process of creating safety.
Sentence stems that could be used: “What I specifically liked…” “The way it made me feel…”
“What made me feel special / loved …”
• Self acknowledgement dialogue.
This dialogue gives acknowledgement to personal growth in relationships. It creates ownership for caring behaviors and facilitates the process of individuation. It fosters the responsibility of each partner to build the relationship. Sentence stems could be:
“Why it was specifically hard / such a stretch, for me to…” “The reason I did it …”
• The Flooding exercise
This exercise helps the partners to learn to express appreciation for the person the partner really is. It moves the focus from the frustrations the individual is experiencing with the other, to the valuable and good characteristics of the other partner. It will make the other feel wanted and appreciated. Sentence stems:
“Your physical attributes that I like…” “Your character attributes that I like…” “Your personality attributes that I like….”
• The Non-verbal Dialogue
In this exercise no speaking is used, but couples are encouraged to talk with their eyes, face, body and touching. They learn to connect with each other, in a way other than verbally. This should only be done when the couple is at a safe place in their relationship.
• Holding Cradling Exercise
This exercise allows the partners to feel sadness and pain about childhood or any other external (non-relationship) issue. This may be about something not to do with your partner. One partner holds the other in cradling embrace (lying across the lap of the other) and allows such a held person to talk about pain. “Tell me about…”
There is no mirroring when the sender speaks. The partner holding, just listens and respond with “I understand” and “Tell me more”.
This dialogue can also be used to re-image the other partner as in parent-child dialogue. Only when the person has finished, the holding partner can ask: “what can I do now, that would heal that with your parents?” and responds by mirroring.
It needs to be noted that the techniques of these dialogues can most probably only be mastered with supervision by a trained and qualified Imago Therapist.
2.10 Couples Workshops
Harville Hendrix has designed a 20-hour “getting the love you want” weekend workshop. The workshop utilises lectures and a subset of the workshop processes. In two days (20 hour) the workshop offers lectures, written exercises, guided imageries, live demonstrations and working one-on-one with your partner.
Typically, the following topics would be lectured on: the tripartite brain and its effects on safety in the relationship, childhood development and mate selection, the importance of empathy, caring behaviours, restructuring negative behaviours, and resolving rage. The couples are then taught to use the dialogue process to apply these lecture topics, and learn about their partners.
The workshop is in two parts, the first being an explanation of the “Unconscious relationship”, and creating awareness of how romantic love leads to the power-struggle. The second part is the “Conscious relationship” part, where couple learn to live consciously with their partners and create an intentional relationship.
Workshops can only be presented by Therapists who have undergone a two-year training period to become certified as workshop presenters.
2.11 The effectiveness of IRT
The effectiveness of short-term couples therapy using the IRT model has been measured by Hannah et, al (1997) using the compass measuring model. They found that individual psychological functioning, as measured using COMPASS increased on at least two levels.
These findings are also consistent with the findings of Pitner, G.D (1995). His research showed that the weekend workshop experience had a significant positive effect on marital satisfaction and change in the quality of the relationship.
Harville and Hunt (1999:192) point out that several studies indicated IRT has a positive result on marital happiness, but they conclude that these results are still limited and must be considered preliminary
CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE COUNSELING
3.1.1 The character of Christian marriage counseling
Guernsey (1994:20) states that Christian marriage counseling has more to do with the being and character of the counselor and clients, than with the content and technique used in the counseling process. Moreover, he says that no particular mode of therapy can claim to be Christian, but is rather done by Christians.
It is of more importance to him, whether Jesus Christ has been integrated as Lord in the counselor’s character. He says that an understanding of the doctrines of Imago Dei (Man created in God’s Image) and sin and evil could be important when working from a Christian perspective. Sin would then be, when we fail to achieve God’s plan for us, by engaging in acts that is opposite to the Bible. Evil, then being that we engage in acts that deliberately destroys God’s Image (the Imago Dei) in us.
For Guernsey it appears that Christian marriage counseling has to do with the basis of the biblical values that are used as departure points, rather than a specific model of therapy.
However, Adams (1970) has pointed out (in his Nouthetic counseling approach), that Christian counseling is not only done by a Christian, but also should be done according to the general biblical principals of Christian living. These principals includes such principals as forgiveness, personal holiness and integrity. For the counselee this means that he should follow biblical principals. He should measure his life against the biblical directives and see where he has failed. The counselor is the guide in this process. These errors should then be confessed and changed to achieve one’s goals. God is asked to help the counselee in making these changes.
Worthington (1989: 22) has identified three approaches that could be termed Christian marriage counseling. The first is the situation in which, it is believed that Christianity is more “caught than taught” from a caring Christian. The Counselor then leads the clients through change even though specific Christian techniques or Christian
practices are not used. The Counselor’s own demonstration and example might be important.
The second approach believes that all therapy must have direct scriptural justification or be rooted in spiritual guidance techniques, such as prayer, confession, biblical instructions, Bible verse memorization and intervention of the Holy Spirit.
The third approach uses methods developed by secular theories of counseling but which deal directly with the spiritual thoughts, behavior and lifestyle of their clients. They use secular counseling processes with Christian content.
Worthington states that his own approach draws upon the secular theories and he deals with the Christianity of his clients, through spiritual guidance techniques such as explicit prayer, confession, forgiveness, scriptural exegesis and scriptural quotations and principles.
He identified the following four distinctive aspects that could describe Christian marriage counseling (Worthington 1989:20-45).
• Should be done by a Christian
• Should be consistent with Christian assumptions
• Should be consistent with God’s specific (biblical) and general (natural) revelations.
• Should have Christ at the centre (grounded in prayer and identification of Jesus as the healer of people and restorer of relationships).
Wright (1981:38) says that a way to develop a biblical approach in counseling is to compare a current secular counseling model that has proven effective with the model of counseling in the Bible.
It might be of importance to note the view of the Friesens (1989), concerning the therapeutic approach chosen in Christian marriage counseling. They suggest that the
The author sees this as very important, as marriage seems to be viewed from the biblical point of view, as a closed system. It is clear that there is no consensus amongst Christian counselors as to exactly what makes marriage counseling Christian.
The writer is of the opinion that Christian marriage counseling should maybe not be seen as a separate model, but rather a specific approach. In this approach there seems to be certain views, actions, and belief systems that distinguish it from all other approaches. These distinguishing factors will now be highlighted.
3.2 Understanding the purpose of marriage from a Christian perspective
The view of the church in general about marriage could possibly be summed up, in the view of the Smiths (1982:22), when they say that marriage is given by God as part of the creation to humans. Marriage is the relationship in which partners can practice the Christian disciplines of living as new creatures, forgiving, being empowered by the Holy Spirit and acceptance. They see marriage as a Christian vocation where each person can fulfill God’s calling on their life. In this sense, they see marriage as a covenant relationship between two equals to fulfill God’s calling to minister to each other and be a channel of God’s love.
Louw (1938:60) explains that the church sees marriage as a creation and command to humans by God.
Patton and Childs (1988) depart from the point of view that you cannot work with the couple without understanding that they are generational human beings with a responsibility to care for those related to them in their own generation as well as in the generations before and after. This generational care must be understood in the light of their specific Christian traditions and generational links.
3.2.1 The concept of Covenant
The concept of covenant seems to be the first aspect that guides and distinguish Christian marriage counseling from others.