Winning the Real Marriage Battle

Winning the Real Marriage Battle

John 10:10: “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy…” As if this list of destruction isn’t bad enough, allow me to add one more thing; to distract. Not just to distract us with busyness but to distract us from even realizing that he is real, that he is a threat, and that he is the one we are warring against.

Married life isn’t always easy, and it’s a guarantee that this wonderful person you married entered your marriage with some flaws; flaws that have come and gone, flaws that have increased, and flaws that drive you nuts or even cause great wedges between you. And by the way, if your spouse is reading this, the same rule applies. 

It can be so easy to put your attention on the wrongs of your spouse. It can also be easy to battle with them over their reluctance to change, their wrongness, or their different way of doing things. All evidence and all fingers point to them as the problem. So naturally, the battle begins… with them. 

You gather your weapons as any worthy opponent would. You’ve stacked your evidence and remembered every date, time, and color of t-shirt they were wearing when the offense in question took place. You know the words you will hurl, the rightness you will stand in, and you will be sure to sleep separately and not even let a pinky toe touch your side of the bed until a resolution is found and the battle has been won. 

Night after night, the same battle ensues, albeit over different topics occasionally; this familiar war dance remains the same. 

You fix your eyes on your spouse, and all the while, your real Enemy sets his eyes on you, your spouse, AND your marriage. You have bought his lie of distraction. He has convinced you that your Enemy, even though it is biblically inaccurate, is indeed flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). You are distracted fighting an enemy that doesn’t exist while the real one is stealing, killing, and destroying your marriage. 

Fight by fight and night by night, your connection drifts apart while he sits back and laughs, shining his trophy that he has no right to. 

Your battle is not with your spouse, nor is it a physical one. The real war is against the Enemy of your soul and is in the spiritual realm. It’s time to open your eyes and show up with different weapons. Spiritual battles are fought with spiritual weapons; you are equipped with every single one you need, and it’s time to put them to use!

Suppose you want to win the real battle in your marriage. In that case, it will be done through prayer, following God’s Word, doing what it says, finding your refuge in Jesus, and being sober-minded and aware that your Enemy is prowling around intending to destroy you. 

The Enemy is after your marriage, and every time you refuse to grow and change, to forgive, and to sit down and talk about real issues and learn new ways to connect and heal, you are teaming up with him. 

The Enemy has no business in your marriage, so it’s time to team up with another, link arms, and focus on the real opponent together. Don’t settle for anything less than the marriage God created you to have.

If you want more resources to help you in your marriage, check out the Expedition Marriage podcast and subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Building Spiritual Intimacy

Building Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy is the glue that holds couples together. When you started your relationship and marriage, it likely relied heavily upon emotional and physical intimacy. If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ll know that emotions change frequently, and physical connection can drift in and out too. Lose a night’s worth of sleep, become hungry, or be a parent with young kids, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Spiritual intimacy is something you can always share. It’s all about growing in the Lord together. It’s about pursuing God’s will for both your marriage and as individuals. Some of the healthiest marriages contain two individuals seeking to follow Christ and honor God with their lives. Couples who have a vision for their marriage and know that it has a higher calling to give God all the glory are the ones who will thrive even when emotions run from high to low and even when physical exhaustion or disconnection happens. 

Spiritual intimacy allows for connection during those hard times. It involves a place of repentance and forgiveness when conflict comes and regrets take place. It will enable space for handholding even when you’ve just had a spat and don’t want to be touched by the other. Spiritual intimacy drives you to reach out to your spouse despite their flaws and the errors they’ve made.

Spiritual intimacy beckons you to a deeper and richer kind of love. Love like Christ has for His bride. Spiritual intimacy says I am here and in this with you no matter what.

If you want to build your spiritual intimacy, try these things:

Read God’s Word and share what you learn with one another. Invite your spouse on the journey you’re taking with God. 

Pray individually and together. Check out this free resource if you want to start a 30-day Praying for Your Husband/Wife Challenge. 

Find a couple to follow. Whose marriage inspires you? Ask them to pour into your life or develop a mentoring relationship.

Start a devotional and have honest conversations that connect you and are rooted in God’s Word. You can find ours HERE 

Develop grateful hearts. Make the time to notice your spouse and what they do for you and your family, and let them know you appreciate it. 

Become self-aware and take responsibility for what is yours to own instead of blaming your spouse. Ask the Lord to check your heart and reveal anything you need to change. 

Finally, less than 10% of couples report having spiritual intimacy in their marriage despite the many wondrous benefits it holds. If your marriage lacks any type of intimacy, make spiritual intimacy the one you focus on first, and you might just find that all the others slowly begin to happen as well.

3 Things Your Marriage Counselor Won’t Tell You

3 Things Your Marriage Counselor Won’t Tell You

As a counselor, I got into this field because I love people and I am a huge believer in hope. I believe it is something everyone needs to know that they have. In fact, instilling hope is always our first goal during an initial session in our marriage ministry, Expedition Marriage. After all, who is going to fight for something if they don’t have the hope they can achieve it? The number one goal of a counselor is to help you change your life and your marriage, and hope is always a necessary part of that.

If you’re in marriage counseling or have been thinking about going, here are some things you may want to know but your counselor likely won’t say…

Most times, as counselors, we can see the potential for your marriage more clearly than you can – which is why we give you assignments and tools to help. But the thing we likely won’t tell you is how dang frustrated we get when you don’t do them or use them! You come in for help, we know these tools work, we have so much hope for you, but more often than not, the tools or assignments you’re given get put on the back burner and left unused.

If you’re in counseling for your marriage, please do the work. Use the tools you’re being given. And remember, we’re not frustrated with you, we’re frustrated because we see the potential and we want you to achieve it.

We also likely won’t tell you that it is so hard for us not to work harder than you do for your marriage. If you knew how many times your counselor is praying and thinking and brainstorming all these things for your marriage while they could be enjoying some mental downtime, you’d be shocked. We have to sometimes try really hard to leave work at work and not be putting in more effort on your behalf than you are. This is a counselor must because the drain is real. In fact the average burnout rate for a counselor is 5 years. So, keep in mind that in counseling you sometimes could be getting so much more if you were putting in more yourself.

Lastly, please don’t take this personally, but we want you to leave.

Yep, we want to wrap up your sessions and send you on your way. Counseling is one of those fields where we succeed by working ourselves out of a job! We want you to heal, to grow, and to leave with a transformed marriage, BUT, here’s the hard part, if you’re not doing the work or putting in any effort, we still want you to go. We want you to leave at that point because you’re not ready and we don’t want to drag you along. That is not helping you, and remember, that’s what we’re about. We’d rather get you out and pray for your return when indeed you’ve had enough of things remaining the same, and you are indeed ready for change.

So, that’s it. Those are the secrets your counselor may be holding out on you. Don’t get mad at them, they really are for you and your marriage. Oh, one last thing, we really aren’t upset with you if we’re not the right fit for you. We want you healed and thriving more than we want to be compatible with you. It’s ok if you part ways with us to find someone else and sometimes we even encourage it. 

If you’re currently in marriage counseling or thinking about starting it, be sure to show up and do the work. Your counselor truly wants what’s best for you. And in the meantime, if you want some free resources, be sure to check out the Expedition Marriage podcast as well as many other resources at

Working Through Forgiveness & Finding Joy Again

Working Through Forgiveness & Finding Joy Again

Have you ever been betrayed or hurt so deeply that the pain is the only thing you can think about? Your heart and mind race through thoughts of hopelessness, vengeance, sadness, anger, and all the ways to protect yourself from ever getting hurt like that again. Your life becomes an emotional roller coaster. And sometimes even after you’ve decided to forgive, those feelings still won’t go away.

In our humanness when we’ve been hurt, we tend to want these three things:

  • For the person to pay for what they’ve done
  • For the person to understand the pain they’ve caused
  • The assurance of knowing they will never hurt us again

The problem is none of those things are guaranteed, and by the way, the first two are just ways to guarantee the third. But, if we set our minds to needing these things, we are setting ourselves up to remain stuck. When you grasp onto needing all or any of those three things, it won’t take long for you to get stuck on the forgiveness journey. In fact, maybe you’ve already made the choice to forgive but you still can’t seem to move forward. Well, here lies the possible problem; God is the only one who will never fail us or hurt us, and to give those divine characteristics to a fallible human is unrealistic. 

Forgiveness doesn’t always require an apology or accepting ownership of a betrayal or wrongdoing, but if you’re desiring to move forward to find your joy again with your spouse, it will. If you’re not sure where you’re at with this, check out, How to Know if Your Spouse is Really Sorry. 

But, assuming you’ve accepted the apology, have seen change, and are stuck trying to rebuild, here’s what you need to know….

You’re going to have to be vulnerable and take a risk. 

And as scary as that is, here’s how you can do it… You trust God
You’re going to have to accept that it is possible you get hurt again…but remember, if you do, God is faithful.
You’re going to have to quit trying to control out of self-protection…ultimately trusting that God will protect you. 
And, you’re going to have to combat the messages in your mind that have only been trying to keep you safe and in control and renew your mind.

When pain enters our lives, we don’t ever want to experience it again. That’s reasonable and fair, but it’s not reality. We don’t have guarantees in this world that protect us from pain, but we do have a guarantee of a God that will be in it with us, love us through it, and pull us out of it. Those are the exact things we must set our minds on, things of Christ.

If you want to find your joy again, you’re going to have to set down your fears and take a risk. Let God build beauty from the ashes. Trust me, He’s really good at it.

If you want more encouragement for your marriage, check out the Expedition Marriage podcast where we help you find joy in the journey of marriage! 

xoxo, Chris & Jamie

Help! My Spouse Has Depression

Help! My Spouse Has Depression

2020, a year we will never forget. It was a year that ushered in a lot of heavy things, disease, fear, chaos, change, and let’s not forget, depression. Relatively soon after the pandemic hit rates of depression (and anxiety) tripled. And if that wasn’t bad enough, here we are a few years later and those rates have still been climbing beyond that. 

The most vulnerable adults to deal with depression are those with lower incomes and the unmarried. Being that your spouse, or perhaps yourself, that might be suffering is married, you’ve got some extra help and support. And that is exactly what your spouse needs if they’re struggling with depression.

So, let us get real practical with helping you deal with a spouse and their depression. As therapists we could get into all the symptoms and the DSM V diagnostic criteria, but the reality is, you can google the symptoms. And that is exactly what step one is, educate yourself with depression. It doesn’t always look like someone down in the dumps who can’t get out of bed, so be sure to get informed. The more you learn, the more you can understand them, and the more empathy you can bring to the table.

Step two is to talk to them about it. Depression is not something you want to sweep under the rug or wait for them to snap out of. Engage them, let them know you want to help, that you care about them, and that you’re willing to walk with them through this. Become an active listener. 

Thinking and acting is something that is very difficult for someone with depression. There can be a sense of constant overwhelm making them want to hide, to feelings of just numbness or emptiness leaving them struggling to put two full sentences together.

This is where step three comes in, help them take action. Let them know you will go to the doctor with them. Set up a counseling appointment and attend alongside them if they want. There are several treatments for depression and medication doesn’t always have to be one of them. Encourage them that depression is highly treatable and that they will have control of their treatment options.

You also want to engage in step four which is to create a healthy home environment. Add in daily or nightly walks with them. You’re not trying to fix them, you’re just trying to create healthy habits with them. Plan some healthy meals and cut out the sugars if possible. Create as much of a low stress environment as you can. Structure is the best way to do this. Play worship music throughout your home and have it become a safe and encouraging haven. This will do you all good.

Lastly, remember that just like a broken arm or leg, depression is not a faith problem either. Believers struggle with depression too.

The difference is, we don’t have to be bound to it because we have an eternal hope as followers of Jesus. He meets us in our darkest places, remind your spouse of that. Pray over them, claim scripture over them, and just let them know you love them and aren’t going anywhere.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and don’t take responsibility for their healing. Your job is to love them where they’re at and to help support them into getting the help they need. 

Want some verses to pray over and share with them? Click here

A Simple Way to Create Family Memories

A Simple Way to Create Family Memories

If you’re in the middle of raising a family and your home is filled with noise, laughter, chaos, and busyness, then you know that there are a lot of opportunities within your four walls for many memories to be made. 

There’s always a birthday to be celebrated, vacations to take, sporting events to go to, and even special days like the day a child comes to know Jesus or gets baptized. Happenings are going on all around us during these years.

My Favorite Memories

One of my favorite memories growing up was spending a lot of time at the beach. I would go on walks with my mom, and we would hunt for shells for hours. On more than one occasion she made me drag a large piece of driftwood back that she thought would make the perfect lamp one day. Spoiler alert: No lamp was ever made. 

Then when I grew up and had a family of my own I started making memories with my own kids. We often would take trips to the library and trips to feed ducks at the lake. We would make totally NON Pinterest-worthy crafts, and even enjoy some of those same shell hunts on the beach.  

I remember fondly so many of those times in my life and with my kids. While those memories are etched in my mind, likely forever, I’m not so sure that would be the case if those were events of today. Instead of cherished memories, they would likely become Instagram-worthy moments, Facebook posts, or vlogs of some sort instead. 

Creating Memories Now

Perhaps it’s time to think about how much all those pictures and poses are stealing from us. For instance, did you know that there is something our brains do that is called “offloading”? What that means is while in the days of old, our brains would be storing those priceless memories, but now, we have offloaded that storage job to an outsider—our phones. Essentially, instead of storing those precious memories in your own memory bank, your brain now freely lets them go to be stored in your phone. 

If you’re like me, you’ll find that very sad, especially if you’re a mom or dad who doesn’t want to miss one moment with your kids. I want to cherish those times with family, not give them away to a piece of technology… and I’m hoping you do too.

We suggest that if you want to create family memories to really remember, that you choose to put down your phone more. Sure, take those special pics, but there’s no need to capture every single moment or event on your phone. In fact, if it’s something really special, do yourself and your brain a favor, and DON’T snap the pic. Let the moment live on in your heart and mind instead of in your iCloud. 

Okay, what are you waiting for? Get off here and go make some memories!

The Key To Having Healthy Conflict

The Key To Having Healthy Conflict

I remember entering marriage so excited to have finally found the one who will complete me. The knowing that all we needed for a happy marriage was love—and based off how much we had of that for one another, we were gonna be just fine. 

Then enters the blindside of refinement. 
The blindside of highlighting one another’s flaws. 
The blindside of triggers. 

All. The. Things.

We really didn’t have many problems dating and we weren’t ever afraid of any problem tearing us apart.

Remember… we were in loooove. But what we didn’t realize was that it wasn’t going to be the problems that would threaten to tear us apart, but rather how we handled them. 

This isn’t just true for us, it’s true for all couples.

Most couples enter marriage completely unaware of their triggers, their greatest fears, and their insecurities. It’s marriage that often brings these things out. But that’s where the goodness, yes goodness, of conflict comes in.

Conflict is a great teacher.
The struggle is being willing to become its student.

When conflict arises, and it will in marriage, as do some of those triggers or fears, and whether you react or respond to them will make all the difference. Triggers and fears often ignite an immediate fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  These responses are all defense mechanisms. The problem is in marriage you are supposed to be on the same team with someone who you do not need to defend yourself from. 

(*Disclaimer: We’re not talking abusive situations here. If that is you, check out this Expedition Marriage podcast episode Enough is Enough)

What You Need to Know about Conflict

To become a student of conflict, you’ve got to add in a pause when those triggers come up. Triggers need to be trained against immediate reaction. They need to be redirected towards slowing down for a pause. Triggers need to start inviting in questions. Questions like:

  • Is my spouse my enemy here? Is he really against me or does it just feel like it?
  • What am I really feeling and reacting to? Being misunderstood, unheard, rejected, fear, potential abandonment? What else has ever made me feel this way?
  • Do I need clarification? Have I heard what is actually being said, or did the filter it went through skew it?
  • Is there an opportunity for me to grow here? (Tough one…sorry, not sorry, it’s good for you!)

So many times couples fight over everything BUT the actual issue. Once big emotions enter in, they open a door for all rational thinking and problems solving skills to make a fast exit. If you can begin to slow down your trigger reactions, start believing your spouse is not against you, and that conflict can actually be a good thing because it highlights the areas you need to grow, amazing things can happen in your marriage.

Conflict and triggers call your core beliefs to the surface. Your job is to question what they’re telling you and if they’re true. 

Anywhere we’ve had pain, such as rejection, emotional abandonment, control, or so many other things, our filters that we receive with or look at life through were shaped. Those filters can be skewed, and conflict and our triggers allow us to take a look at them and correct them. 

So the next time conflict enters in, don’t be afraid of it, don’t react immediately to it, instead, slow it down, invite it in and see if you can learn more about yourself and one another in its process. 

How to Know if Your Spouse is Really Sorry

How to Know if Your Spouse is Really Sorry

Your spouse has done something wrong. Maybe they’ve said something hurtful, lied to you, or forgot to do that thing they’ve been promising to do. But maybe they’ve done something as harmful as had an affair or started gaslighting you to the point of emotional abuse.
Is just hearing “I’m sorry” enough to bring healing? 

Usually not. 

In fact, saying “I’m sorry” but never changing anything is not truly being sorry. And, as the one on the other side of the injury, you need to know that as much as they do.
Now, we’re not talking about occasional slip ups and needing to be perfect, but we are talking about a spouse potentially using “I’m sorry” for manipulation and control. 

Reasons why your spouse might apologize and not necessarily mean it.

  • It’s easier and they want to avoid conflict or just sweep it under the rug.
  • They’re trying to keep the peace and want you to move on, so they feel better.
  • They’re trying to manipulate and dismiss you.
  • They’re trying to appease you with words because they really don’t want to change.

Here is the truth….The only time when “I’m sorry” really means anything is when they’re actually ready to change!

If you’re in a situation where there are constant apologies and promises of change, but change never comes, that’s a clue you need some help. You’re likely dealing with avoidance, passivity, or emotional abuse. And while not every lack of change means emotional abuse is present, it does mean there’s an issue that needs to be dealt with.

Whether your spouse is a conflict avoidant people pleaser, or whether they are narcissistic and believe everything revolves around them, change is required for an apology that you can really believe in. 

Advice for the Newlywed

Advice for the Newlywed

If only we knew then what we know now after 28 years of marriage, our lives would have gone a lot smoother. Now don’t let that scare you—because we think marriage is GREAT! We’re not ever going to tell you that it’s not challenging, but we do want to encourage you that it can be a lot more fun than it is hard, and we want to let you know that even the hard stuff can be good.

As our youngest daughter is entering the newlywed stage of life, we find ourselves pondering what we wish we would have known back then and asking ourselves how we can help set her marriage up best for success. Truth be told with that second question, as her parents, we’ve already done the majority of our most impacting work in her life as she had a front row seat to watching our marriage unfold. So, if expanding your family is going to be part of your journey, we want you to know that one of your best parenting tools you will ever have will be your marriage. That’s one reason why what we want to share with you is so important.

What We Wish We Knew as Newlyweds

In our opinion as marriage counselors and as a married couple, we believe the biggest blindside of marriage is the massive amount of refinement that comes with it. 
Most of us enter marriage with the expectation and excitement that you have found the one to love and to love you exactly as you are forever and always. While there very well be some truth to that, more than likely you married someone who will eventually highlight every flaw you have and every area where you need growth. You married the person that will help you grow and be refined more than anyone else. This part of marriage isn’t much fun, BUT it sure is purposeful, especially when you know about it in advance!
Your spouse will be used by God to help you become more like Christ. They will test your patience, increase your humility, grow your empathy, and teach you how to forgive and offer grace. However, there is a catch. 

You must be willing to surrender to the process. You can choose growth, or you can dig in your heels and choose pride, blame, and division. We encourage you to choose wisely, and always be willing to work on yourself. Another thing we wish we knew was how much vulnerability was needed in marriage. If you want to grow your trust and your connection, you must be willing to be raw and to share real and honest feelings with one another. There is nothing that will connect you more than vulnerability. Never shy away from saying the hard, the embarrassing, and the authentic things.

Keep in mind that your marriage will be like a bowling ball on a hill. If you’re not actively moving it up it will start to slip. Marriage does take work, but most of that work is just being intentional. Go on date nights, have fun, connect through communication daily. Be on guard against the mundane trap. Your marriage is worth investing in. You want to be sure it lasts a lifetime.

For some final takeaways, we also want you to…

  • Always have fun! Fun and friendship are the things that help you best be able to handle what life throws at you. 
  • Remember that it’s not the problems that will take your marriage out, it’s what you decide to do about them. Always be willing to fix what breaks along the way!
  • And finally, keep Jesus in the center. 

If you want more help with any of this, be sure to check out our Newlywed Couples Devotional and all our available resources including the Expedition Marriage podcast

May you always enjoy the journey of marriage!

When is it Time to Quit Working on Your Marriage?

When is it Time to Quit Working on Your Marriage?

Sometimes you just need to quit working on your marriage in order to save it. I know this may sound counterproductive or like really bad marriage advice, especially from a Christian counselor, but there’s a reason for it.

Imagine for a minute that you got up tomorrow morning, went to work and then kept going and going without a break and without any days off. If you happen to be a stay-at-home mom with little kiddos you might understand this well. As a parent in general, there is no time off, you’re always on call, and your schedule is barely your own anymore. Spending just one week with a schedule like this and you will be zapped and running on empty in no time.

As marriage counselors, we see a lot of couples whose marriages need a lot of work. They’re disconnected, they’re empty, and they’re tired of the same fights, the same sexless nights, and quite honestly, they’re tired of all the work it’s taking to keep their marriage from crumbling. 

Now, let’s go back to thinking about being at work 24/7. As time goes on, working all the time with no breaks, no breathers, no down time, how productive do you think you’d become at your job? Would you be producing your best work, or perhaps would the quality of your work be going downhill? If you’re like most people, the answer would be the latter.

Let’s talk about why that is—plain and simple; exhaustion, constant work, and mentally being on all day is depleting. You are not made to function without rest and renewal. And this is no different if you’re a married couple working on your marriage. Your marriage is not made to be all work. No one in their right mind wants to sign up for that!

If you want a good day at work or at home with the kids, you must have breaks to clear your mind, to eat a meal, and most importantly, you must be able to clock out. For a marriage to heal and thrive, it will need the same. In fact, one of the best tools to equip you to handle problems, stress, or even work better, is having more joy and more fun!

Perhaps you’ve been working on your marriage for a while and all the work is just getting stressful and seems to be highlighting your problems and increasing disconnection even more. It might be time to balance some of your work efforts with some refocusing and time off. The struggle with working so hard, albeit commendable, is that it fixes your gaze on problems. And what you focus on, you magnify. 

Maybe the only work you need to be doing right now is rekindling your friendship and learning how to relax and laugh again. Problems or not, at one point in your life, that person you’re married to was once your best friend. You used to find joy in just holding hands, going out for ice cream, or talking about silly stuff at a coffee shop. Maybe instead of all the work, you just need to take some steps back and find some joy again. 

If you want a practical, informative, and yet FUN way to have some conversations, check out our Restoring Connection Course