Most couples who come in to counsel with me have what I call the “presenting problem.”
They will present with communication issues or conflict resolution issues or financial pressures or sexual issues, and the list goes on and on. I will do my best to help with each of these identified problem areas. but often feel I am just putting a bandage on the problem.
The reason I feel this way is because I have found, over years of marriage counseling, rarely is the problem the real problem. In almost every case, I can help the couple trace the real problem to what is going on in their heart. And what is going on in their heart is the real problem of unmet desires and longings. These desires and longings have been placed in our hearts by God to connect to Him and to each other.
To illustrate my point let me have you picture an iceberg. An iceberg usually has 10 percent of its mass above the water line and 90 percent below. In this illustration the “presenting problems” would be the 10 percent that are above the water line.
Well, what is below the surface that is the real problem? I would start to answer this question by going to the very bottom of the iceberg and the truth of who all of us are in the sight of God. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image and likeness and deeply loved by God. This love is what caused God to place in the creation order the institution of marriage and the powerful yearning that draw men and women to the marriage altar.
Right above this foundational truth are the deep longings God placed within us to help us connect to each other and to God. These desires include to be heard, affirmed, blessed, safe, touched, chosen and included. I believe these desires are universal. All of us have all of them. I also believe that fulfillment in life is the result of having these desires met by God, ourselves, our mates and others. Also, true fulfillment comes as a result of serving others by meeting these needs in them.
In our iceberg illustration, in between the problem at the top and truth and desire at the bottom, are several layers. The layers go on in our minds and strongly impact our marriage. These layers include expectation of ourselves, others and life. Another layer has to do with the message we get and develop about ourselves. I call them core beliefs. The negative core beliefs are: “I will never get it right. I’m not very smart. I am a bad and worthless person, etc.”
Of course, these core beliefs about ourselves layer into our feelings that layer into how we seek to cover the pain and the strategies in us to cope.
As couples come to understand the deeper pain of the heart they can start to get beyond the observable problem to the real problem.
When you can finally understand and name the pain, you can then start to find healing at the deepest level of your heart. Then you can turn to God for help knowing what He needs to help you with. And He will help you.
Pastor Don Morris
Timberline Christian Counseling Services: