Ep. 214 Getting to the Heart of the Matter With a Combative Couple
Shows Main Idea – What you see with any person or couple that you’re helping is not the primary thing you must know. You need to understand how to penetrate the noise and chaos of their lives, and the insight to drill to the heart of the matter. In this podcast, Rick graphically provides the insight you need to understand the real story and need of a struggling couple.
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Breaking Down the Graphic
1 – Why Did You Come to Counseling?
- No need to over-complicate your opening question.
- They will never tell you the real problem.
- Whatever they say will give you your starting point.
2 – What Are You Doing to Each Other?
- They won’t give you, typically, a biblical response, i.e., dishonoring each other (Romans 12:10).
- You will have to recategorize whatever they say to you because you want to start moving them toward biblical categories.
3 – Why Are You Doing That?
- Whenever a person tells you “what” they are doing, your first response is to ask them “why” they are doing it.
- “What” describes external behaviors, but “why” explains the internal, i.e., what is happening in the heart.
- You will always find a pattern of attitudes, thinking, words, and behaviors. They can resolve one-time sins, but the accumulative effect of historical trends complicate things and slows down transformation.
- You want to discern the complicating matters. E.g., they say they have dysfunction, but you’ll find many other problems in addition to the dysfunction. Complicating issues are a collection of other problems piled on top of the reason they came to see you.
4 – Why Do You Have Ongoing Conflict?
- They will simplify again by saying the reason for the past conflict is because of communication problems. This response is simplistic and inaccurate, as far as the real problem in the marriage.
- People in ongoing conflict will not give you the right answers; you’ll have to help them.
- If you don’t know any more than what they are providing for you, it will not be possible for you to help them.
5 – Why Don’t You Communicate Well?
- Go back to the “why” question when they give you an inaccurate or incomplete answer.
- E.g., when they say they have communication problems, you’ll find a collection of complicating issues, i.e., frustration, stubbornness, impatience.
6 – What Is the Problem, According to You?
- Give them time to “talk themselves into a corner” by “using their words to condemn” themselves. If they talk long enough, they will do this.
- Be patient. The temptation is to “quick fix” a couple, but you can’t do this. You must lead them with insightful question-asking.
- Once they paint themselves in a corner, give them a direct, non-negotiable, clear, and biblical response, i.e., “You’re saying that you’re right and your spouse is wrong?”
7 – Conclusion: You’re Better Than the Other Person
- Give them a biblical category for what they have been describing.
- Notice that they will think that they are describing the other person, but you have flipped the argument from what the other person is doing, and making a case against the one who was prosecuting their spouse (Matthew 7:3-5).
- Also, notice that you have moved the argument from the superficial reason that they came to see you, and have pinpointed a significant heart condition, i.e., self-righteousness.
8 – You Are Self-Righteous!
- They will need to “buy-in” on what you’re saying, but don’t assume that they understand how bad off they are.
- You want to paint a dire and hopeless situation, which is why I typically say, “You can’t change because there is no grace for the righteous. Jesus did not come for the righteous, but the sick (Luke 5:32). As long as you harbor a superior attitude toward your mate, you will be in an adversarial relationship with God (James 4:6), which will prohibit you from receiving His transformative grace (2 Timothy 2:24-25).”
- Your goal is to flip the counseling session on its head by showing them that the real problem requires them to head in another direction, which is the point of repentance. If the Lord chooses to “turn them around,” they will repent, solve the heart issue that was hindering them, and their behaviors toward each other will change too.
Call to Action
If you struggle in ways that are similar to this fictional, struggling couple, please take some time to study Rick’s articles on self-righteousness, which you may find here.