When couples need extra help in their marriage

By Wayne Reed

There is something about a Canadian spring that makes me want to garden. After a long, cold, restricting winter, it’s hard to resist the beautiful colours of the annuals on display at the store or the fresh green blades of grass as they burst forth all around my yard. This rush of excitement and euphoria must be carefully thought through, though. You see, planting in spring means nurturing, weeding and tending all summer long if I want a garden that brings me delight. Similarly, marriage usually starts with lots of excitement and warm sentiments toward a spouse in those honeymoon years or months, but a marriage that is not nurtured and prioritized soon becomes a chore we cannot easily get out of without hurting the ones we love.

So, let me ask you as a ministry leader, how is your marriage? No, really. How is your marriage really doing? I humbly ask you to be honest in this moment because honesty is what could be the beginning of change for you and your spouse.

Three categories of marriage

Marriages tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. The Crisis Marriage is in serious trouble because one or both spouses are thinking of or planning a way out. There could be deep hurt or betrayal, or there is a growing chasm between the spouses with little to no meaningful connection, and hope is dwindling.
  2. The Conflicted Marriage has its ups and downs. There are seasons of closeness, but these can quickly and abruptly become cold and dry because conflict happens, and it never seems to get dealt with. The spouses may long for deep connection and true intimacy but every attempt results in more hurt, and discouragement begins to set in. Soon there is a palpable wall between the spouses.
  3. The Close Marriage has conflict and challenges just like every marriage does, but the spouses are consistently making efforts to communicate, resolve issues, and connect even when life is demanding. They may have dry seasons, but they never settle for good enough, rather striving for great. The spouses may not have the answers or skills to navigate every challenging situation, but they seek out help when they get stuck.

If, as you evaluate your marriage, you find yourself in the first two categories, please know that you do not face this reality alone. There are resources out there that can make a difference and are easily accessed, and that is what this article is about.

I have spent over 20 years as a pastor in various settings. I have been a solo pastor burning the candle on both ends and wondering if anyone cares about me as I pour myself out for others. I have also worked in a multi-staff church where my role was very specific but found I can feel just as lonely with all my colleagues around me. One thing has not changed, though, in all these situations: It sucks to come home from serving others and find yourself in a lifeless marriage. Your home and marriage should be your safe space, your inner sanctum, the place you relax and recharge. How sad when we do not have a home and marriage that feels safe for us to let our guard down and just be.

For the past 12 years I have been working as a professional counsellor, and for the last seven years as a marriage therapist in the Hope Restored program, which is run by Focus on the Family Canada. I want to provide you with some information that could be helpful to you, your marriage and your ministry today.

When thinking about marriage, please consider the fact that if you are facing challenges, then your congregation is certainly going through similar challenges. The church is not always the safest place to speak about marital problems and so Christians often find themselves stuck and unable to access help because no one talks about their struggles. Pastor, you may be very aware of the struggle in some of your congregants’ marriages, but you may feel overwhelmed or overworked in this area. Please let Focus on the Family Canada help you in this very important part of your ministry.

Hope Restored marriage intensives

For all the couples who find themselves in a Crisis Marriage or a Conflicted Marriage, we have a program called Hope Restored to help you. At Hope Restored we offer marriage intensives at our three retreat centers across Canada – in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. The program has been running for over 20 years and has helped thousands of couples find hope amidst a tough marriage. Please call 1.833.999.HOPE (4673) for more information about Hope Restored or visit HopeRestoredCanada.ca.

Marriage Enrichment Conferences

Focus on the Family Canada would also love to serve you and your congregation through our Marriage Enrichment Conferences. These conferences are typically run on a Saturday, all day, at local churches across the country and are a great way to address some of the maintenance needs in marriage. Whether you are in a Close Marriage that just needs a tune up, or even a Crisis Marriage that needs a complete overhaul, these conferences are a great place to begin. Every time my wife and I facilitate a conference, we encounter a few couples who would benefit from coming to our intensives because their issues demand professional help. This makes our conferences a great funnel point for such couples.

Hosting a conference at your church

Our facilitators have all had training in the Hope Restored program and at least one is a professional counsellor. We strive to make the conference informative, engaging and fun for all. Focus on the Family Canada wants to make this as effortless as possible for you as a pastor every step of the way. Hosting a marriage event at your church is a great way to help your marriage and the marriages of your congregation while reaching out into your community and providing an event that is greatly needed. We often find that two-thirds of the people who come to a Marriage Enrichment Conference are not from the church that host the event. What a great way to advertise your church and its ministries! When I was in ministry, I hosted marriage events in partnership with several other churches in my city. If you feel your congregation is too small, please consider partnering with some other churches in your area. Please call Focus on the Family Canada at 1.800.661.9800 for more information about hosting a conference in your church.

Scripture is full of inferences about the high value God places on marriage. Here at Focus on the Family Canada we too highly value marriage and it reflects in the quality ministries we offer to address the marital needs of Canadians. As spring comes around again, may it remind you that, like gardens, marriages need our constant attention to thrive and bring life and beauty to all.



Wayne Reed is a marriage intensive therapist with Focus on the Family Canada’s Hope Restored program.

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