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Couples often come for counseling claiming they want to help their marriage, when what they really want is some justification to get out of it. I have seen some seriously damaged marriages, but I have not found one beyond repair if both people are willing to work at it. But without that willingness, counseling is usually wasted. So I begin pastoral counseling by asking three questions:

Where do you want this marriage to go?

Many couples have never talked about this. One person may think living separate lives within the same house is fine, while the other wants to share everything. Some think that if there isn't much fighting, then it's going well. The other person often wants deeper intimacy.

Getting people to answer this question honestly is critical. I ask people to take a few days to answer this question, to pray about their true desires. As hard as this question can be, the answers can open dialogue that reveals the true condition of the marriage.

Answers can be both general and specific. ...

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