Advice for Couples

by Tim Isbell

#relationships, #love, #counseling

This web page is designed for couples who are dating, courting, or were married long ago. It is also available by typing bit.ly/advice4couples into any browser.

Over several decades, I've talked with people who came to me for advice about relationships. They come to me for two reasons: Robin and I have remained married since 1967, and I am a pastor. Some came because of difficulties in their marriage, others just wanted a better marriage. Some came for premarriage counseling and/or to ask me to officiate at their wedding. Others were dating - including some who previously experienced a failed marriage. I am not a licensed counselor so I am quick to refer people to professionals. But like all pastors, I find myself talking with people about how to improve their relationships.

Slowly I accumulated a toolbox of resources that have proved helpful in these situations. Many of these tools emerged from me looking for help for my own marriage. Some came from my wife, who is much wiser about relationships than I am! This web page offers you the entire toolbox, organized (for the first time) in the table below. Just browse the table and click on any link that interests you, whether or not they are in your column. They're all free.

Resource    

 Dating

 Courtship

 Married

12 Stages of Intimacy. Information every person needs before dating gets too serious.

 *

 *

 

Premarriage Sexuality. From my own counseling experiences.

 *

 *

 

Can I Trust This Love? Wisdom from my wife, Robin, based on teaching by Madeleine L'Engle.

 *

 *

 

Eldridge's "3 Things". Guys are looking for 3 things in a relationship and are asking 1 big question. Gals are also looking for 3 things, and asking some big questions, too. It helps to know what these are.

 *

 *

 *

Feelings List. For people like me who are not intuitively in touch with their feelings, here's my list.

* * *

Fit to be Tied. My notes from a book by Bill & Lynn Hybels. I often recommend this as part of premarriage counseling.

  * 

Responding to conversation "bids." The way a person responds to their partner's conversation "bids" is crucially important to the long-term health of their relationship.

 * * *
The Mathematics of Love is a Ted Talk that provides equations to help couples understand the how conversations spiral into trouble. It makes a case favoring low "negativity thresholds."  * *  *

 Acts of Love. My notes on M. Scott Peck's definition of love as work and courage. A true act of love is always either an act of work or an act of courage or both.

  * * *

Lifesigns homily, used in a wedding ceremony. Lifesigns is a book by Henri Nouwen. It is a good basis for a young couples small group study. 

 * * *

 Mirroring. How to have a real conversation.

 * * *

 Applying Ephesians 5. Especially every Christian guy and gal need to read this one - especially the guy.

  * *

 Larry Wall on Marriage. A Venn diagram view of Christian marriage.

  * *

 Budgeting. How couples manage their money is crucial to their relationship.

  * *

Transforming Partnerships. Especially helpful for men. This is a key element in managing temptations.

  *  *  *

Let's Start with Jesus by Dr. Dennis Kinlaw. See below.

   * *

Getting Your Sex Life Off to a Great Start by Clifford & Joyce Penner. This is very Christian and very explicit; it's designed for premarriage and the early stages of marriage.

  * 

The Gift of Sex by Clifford & Joyce Penner. This is also very Christian and very explicit, but written for couples who have been married a while.

   *

Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. See below.

  * *

 Wedding Homilies by Tim Isbell

  * *

How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. See below.

  * *

 Sharon's Dating Advice for Christians    

  *  * 


Here's a little more information on the items in the table marked with *:

Let's Start with Jesus

Dr. Dennis Kinlaw is a mature Methodist minister and seminary professor. From decades of living in scripture, he has a holistic and wonderful grasp of it. At first glance, his book doesn't look like it has much to say to couples. But in fact, it has a very profound message, especially for Christian couples. It takes a little theological background to grasp it all, but anyone can get the pertinent part.

His marriage material is particularly in chapter 2: "The Level of Intimacy God Desires, Three Metaphors Illustrate God's Purposes for Us." One of these 3 metaphors is the marriage metaphor, which he points out is the most prolific metaphor in scripture for how we are to relate to God. As I grasped it, I came to realize that God's primary objective in marriage is not our pleasure and happiness so much as it is to draw us into a deeper relationship with himself. Robin and I used Dr. Kinlaw's concepts in a talk at Stanford University Grad School's Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in December 2011. You can find my notes from that evening at Invitation to Romance.

Getting the Love You Want

This book does an excellent job of talking about love from a psychological viewpoint. It is written for secular readers, but as you read it you may suspect that the author is a Christian. In fact, he is and he has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary. This book was a bit of a tough read for me, but I found the exercises in the back of the book quite practical and understandable - and these enlightened me enough to understand the text. The exercises are designed for couples to work through either prior to or after marriage. The exercises are worth the price of the book, even if you never read the text.

How We Love 

This book is a moderately easy read. It teaches that the sources of most couples’ relationship problems are subconscious lessons on how to love that they learned from their families of origin. It also unpacks how God helps couples replace these unhealthy love styles with healthy ones. It is a very practical book. 



In another part of this website, the Resources section, you can also find my set of Premarriage Counseling Resources. I designed that section for pastors to use in premarriage counseling, but anyone is welcome to browse and use the material. I also occasionally do online premarriage counseling, which you can learn about at Premarriage Counseling - online.  

Blessings, 

Tim



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Subpages (1): Larry Wall on Marriage
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