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Ask a Counsellor – Marriage Q&A with Dr. Doug Weiss

In Articles, Dating, Family, Life Issues, Marriage by Doug Weiss

No marriage is easy, and each brings its own unique set of challenges. However, some couples face very difficult and serious hurdles, oftentimes resulting in what seems like an unbeatable obstacle. Christian counselor Doug Weiss offers insights into some of the tougher questions that can pop up in married life.

We have been dating for almost a year. How do I know when it is time to get married?

The first thing you need to do is pray and see what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about her being the right one and this being the right time. Let Him lead you though this process. There are a few things you need to consider before you decide to get married. Being open and honest with yourself about the next few questions will give you great insight to see if you are ready to get married. If you are young and never married, consider the following: Can you live with her as she is, flaws and all, for the rest of your life? Are you willing to serve her for a lifetime without using a scoring system? Is she someone you can’t imagine life without?

Now for you personally: Do you have a job? Have you addressed any family of origin issues, pornography issues or sexual secrets or behaviors? Do you have a few strong men to help you stay accountable and married? If you feel that you can answer all of the questions and still feel ready, have a conversation with your family and your pastor then go and talk to her mother and father, as well as her pastor.

Finally, ask her what she would need to feel ready and safe to be married to you? Address these concerns with an adult couple or pastor. When you are following God, you show her and her family that she can trust your fellowship with Him all the days of her life.

My wife told me recently that she was sexually assaulted when she was younger. I’m not sure what I should be doing to help.

Your wife shared with you a deep, dark secret and that shows that she genuinely trusts you. Thanking her for trusting you with her secret is a great place to start. You are acknowledging her openness with you and validating that you completely heard her. She has given you a precious gift and acknowledging and validating her will show her your heart for her. Some women need assurances after disclosure and if you feel the following would be helpful for her then you can look at her in the eyes and say that you are still madly in love with her, that you think she is beautiful and that rape is never the woman’s fault.

A next great step would be to ask her what she feels she needs to be able to process and work through the trauma. A good female Christian counselor in your area as well as support groups and books can be very beneficial to her if she hasn’t worked through the trauma. Just know she is now in a process that is different for every woman and couple. This process will be unique to both of you, so be patient.

Lastly, decide early in the process who you want to be to her. This time in her life she needs you to be patient, supportive and emotionally available. You need to realize that this time in her life is not about you, it’s about her. Being present with her though this will give her the support she needs and you can become a hero to your wife and family.

My father-in-law passed away recently. Since then, we’ve talked about my mother-in-law moving in with us. Is this a good idea? How can we make it work?

Wow, this is a loaded question! There are a few things you need to consider about your mother-in-law before you start settling into a decision. Think about her health, her relationships with friends and her routines. If she is doing well on her own, she may prefer to stay where she is. Timing, personalities, health and wealth are all variables in a decision like this.

Another idea you need to consider is how taxing this will be on your wife and family. Consider if you have enough space so she truly has an area she can call her own. Another idea is to rotate her time between family members so you all share in taking care of her, but only use this if she absolutely is unable to live alone.

Every family deals with these issues very differently. The stages of life, the maturity level of each member of the family and their agendas can be huge. You are an in-law so in some cases you can only support your wife as she and her family decides what’s best for Mom.

A great place for you to start is to seek Godly counsel from three separate sources. First, your pastor, second, a counselor who regularly works with families of the elderly and third, several couples, consider five, who have taken parents into their home and find out what they learned in the process. This is a decision you will need to make as a family and gathering as much information as possible will give you the best chance at success.

What are appropriate grounds for divorce? How do I know if I should hope for reconciliation?

The only solid biblical grounds for divorce are adultery. However, I have seen church leaders in situations of extreme neglect, abuse of a spouse, addiction or psychological disorders evaluate these circumstances per situation.

I believe as long as you are married, hope for a reconciliation. Do everything you can for the marriage, for example; talk to your pastor, get professional help, read marriage books, attend marriage conferences. If the other person is willing to work on the marriage, work on the marriage.

However, if they will not work on the marriage and they divorce you, there is nothing you can do. If this occurs, there are many opportunities for healing after a divorce through your local church including support groups. Make sure you take plenty of time to heal and stay away from romantic relationships and leave your heart open.

My wife is not a Christian, but I want my children to know Jesus. How do I negotiate with her on talking our kids to church?

First things first—be an awesome husband to your wife. Pray for her each day that her heart becomes softened and as her husband, demand the enemy of blindness be broken and that she would have people sent into her life to bring Christ into her heart. Love her the way she receives love; quality time, gifts, praise, touch or acts of service. Help her around the house by cleaning up after yourself and the kids. Take the opportunity to put your children to bed each night. Pray with them and read the Bible with them. You can also pray over your wife daily and offer her praise consistently.

When she sees you in consistent service towards her and your love for God (not religiosity) then it will be time for you to talk to her about taking your children to church. You can approach her on a couple of different areas. First, church is a great place for your children to learn a spiritual and moral compass. She may also enjoy time to herself on Sunday mornings and some weekday evenings. If you still have some resistance, negotiate every other week to be fair that both parent’s values are represented. If you are still blocked, suggest going to see a counselor of her choice and use the time to negotiate a plan you both agree on.

It has been two years since my wife passed away from cancer. We had a great marriage. Lately, I’ve been considering dating again. My kids are grown up, but I’m not sure how to bring this up with them. Is it too soon?

Sorry to hear of your heartbreaking loss. You have allowed two years to adequately grieve for your wife. It is also honorable that you are thinking about your children before you start dating again. However, it is not their place to give you permission.

A good place to start the dialogue into your new life is by having a face-to-face meeting with each child if possible. This is the time where it is important for them to hear that you will always love and honor their mother. But you also need to tell them that you feel it’s time to start dating again and that you hope they understand that this is the choice you’ve made. In most cases, and with this much time, most adult children will understand and want you to be happy.

If you loved well and were a good husband, you will be an answer to prayer to a woman who knows how to give and receive love. One note of caution: you’ll still want accountability when dating so that you protect the sexuality of you and your future wife.

I was married very young and my first marriage was a mess. I am now engaged to a beautiful godly woman. How do I make sure I don’t bring my baggage from my first marriage into this one?

Youth doesn’t make marriage a mess. A lack of maturity, character and other issues make for a messy marriage regardless of your age. To keep this from happening in your next marriage, identify your lack of maturity, character and flawed beliefs. You will need to make sure you own 100 per cent of what your failings were in the first marriage and take this to a group of older men, your pastor or Christian counselor.

Once these men have walked thoroughly through these issues with you and you are matured by their standards, you may be ready. Remember, it’s their standards—not yours. You also need to make sure you have no secrets from her and if porn or sex issues were a problem, you communicate those clearly and seek a plan of resolution.

The only way not to carry your mistakes forward is to walk through the issues of the past and get to a place of maturity. This new character and maturity approved by other mature men is the best green light you can have to ensure that your future is brighter than your past!

Doug Weiss
Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including, Clean and Intimacy Anorexia.
Doug Weiss
Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including, Clean and Intimacy Anorexia.