by Shane Fookes, MA MDiv, Registered Counseling Associate
People generally look for a Christian marriage counselor because they want to work on their relationship in one way or another. What they often don’t realize is their marriage is already working on them! This blog series introduces and expands on the work of Dr. David Scharch and his “Crucible 4 Points of Balance.” This post examines the first point of balance: A Solid, Flexible Self.
In Marriage It Is Important to Have A Solid Flexible Self
Most people begin marriage lacking a solid sense of themselves. In other words, they don’t have strong confidence in their identity as an individual. As a result, they are attracted to their partner because that person reflects a desired identity back to them. You hear hints of this when you ask them, “What do you like about your partner?” and they answer with something like, “I like the way they make me feel” or “They bring out the best in me.”
In good marriages, each partner develops and maintains a solid, flexible self. In other words, they each maintain a sense of “me” as they together develop a “we.” In his book ACT with love, Russ Harris describes this with a wonderful metaphor:
“A healthy relationship is like two towering mountains with a magnificent valley between them through which the river of life flows strong and fast and free. Neither mountain needs the other-and yet their connection to one another gives rise to a lush valley teeming with the wonder of nature.”
What Does A Solid Flexible Self Really Mean?
So what does it mean to have a solid self? Here are a few factors with some Scriptures that illustrate them:
- You understand you have inherent dignity and value as a person made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and redeemed by the gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-10).
- You have an internalized set of biblical values by which you run your life. (Psalm 1)
- You are able to maintain your own perspective and sense of direction when others pressure you to conform. (Galatians 2:11-14)
- You accept the influence of others without losing track of yourself. (Matthew 8:5-13)
- You don’t always have to be right, and you don’t crash when you’re wrong. (Acts 10)
Importantly, a solid sense of self does not mean being inflexible. Inflexibility is a sign of immaturity. A solid sense of self involves the ability to adjust as the need arises. Such flexibility allows a person to…
- Learn from mistakes (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
- Adapt when circumstances call for it (John 11:21-33).
- Allow others to be right (Exodus 32:1-14).
- Make room for others’ differences rather than demanding conformance (Galatians 6:12-15)
Christian Couples Therapy: Solid Flexible Self Vs Reflected Sense of Self
Dr. Schnarch contrasted a solid, flexible self with what he called a reflected sense of self. When someone has a reflected sense of self, they depend on others, especially a romantic partner, for a sense of self. Someone operating with a reflected sense of self will say they want intimacy, but what they’re actually requiring from their partner is validation, acceptance, and unconditional support.
Of course, validation, acceptance, and unconditional support are good and necessary in a relationship. However, when these are not present, someone with a reflected sense of self will emotionally crash, react defensively and demandingly, and/or otherwise put unfair burdens on their partner. You can know someone is operating from a reflected sense of self when they spend an inordinate amount of time talking about “safety and security,” “abandonment,” and “vulnerability.” When one or both partners rely on a reflected sense of self, the relationship becomes either emotionally claustrophobic on one extreme or rigidly brittle on the other extreme.
A solid, flexible self involves thinking with what Paul described as ‘sober judgment’ in Romans 12:3. On the one hand it means not thinking too highly of yourself. On the other hand it means knowing you have something vital and necessary to offer in the relationship.
Here’s how Dr. Schnarch wonderfully summed this up: a solid, flexible self means standing on your own two feet in a relationship, without stepping on your partner’s toes!
Continue reading this blog series with the second point of a balanced marriage: quiet mind and calm heart.
Consider Christian Couples Therapy in Oregon For Your Relationship
Our Clackamas and Beaverton-based marriage counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can truly thrive and you can still build a solid flexible self within your partnership. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. Follow these simple steps to start Christian couples therapy:
- Contact us to get connected with a therapist
- Schedule an appointment for Christian couples therapy
- Build your sense of self so you can build a stronger relationship
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, Hillsboro, or Beaverton, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!