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About The


Ethics & Religion
February 24, 2016
Column #1,800
Committed Couples - Not Counselors - Save Crisis Marriages
By Mike McManus


Has your marriage ever been so troubled that you or your spouse considered divorce? I'm writing a book on how to save marriages in crisis, and would like to quote readers willing to answer the following questions by writing me at If you do not want your name used, make up one.

  1. What was your marriage crisis? Did you save it?

  2. What did you do, or what did God do, to help?

  3. Did you see a professional counselor? If so, did he/she recommend divorce?

  4. Did you divorce?

  5. If so, are you glad you did? How about your kids?

This column will offer a proven solution to the most daunting problem in America - the disintegration of marriage. In 2014 there were 2.26 million marriages, but 1.08 million divorces. This 48% divorce rate is triple that of Britain or France. Further, there's been a 57% decline in the U.S. marriage rate since 1970.

Most pastors refer marriages in crisis to counselors. However, "Covenant Marriage," a book researching 300 troubled marriages who saw a counselor came to a startling conclusion: "Couples who receive marital counseling (during marriage) are substantially more likely to divorce than couples who forego this option...Marital counseling is associated with at least three times higher odds of separation and divorce."

In 1990 I wrote a column about a better answer developed by Rev. Dick McGinnis, an Episcopal priest who asked a question your pastor could ask: "Are there couples here whose marriages have been on the rocks, but who have successfully come off of them - couples who have been in extreme difficulty and have threatened divorce - but who are in recovery? If so, I'd like to meet with you after the service."

To his surprise, out of 180 people in church 10 couples showed up. He confessed to them, "I have more work than I can handle in marriage counseling. There is no way to keep up with it. I prayed about it. What came to me was that I was not to look at the problem, but at the solution."

"That triggered in my mind how Alcoholics Anonymous got started. There were not only two people trying to help each other stay sober, but there were two clergy who got involved - a Catholic and an Episcopalian. Out of it came the 12 steps of AA that have helped millions stay sober.

"I want to meet with you over a period of time to see if there is anything of a common nature you had to do for your marriage to be restored. You'll have to share openly and deeply. It may be embarrassing. But I want to see if God has a way of re-establishing marriages."

The group wrote a foundational principle: "Through other Christians' testimony and personal example, we found hope for our marriage." Susan Smitha explained: "It is the sharing of what is going on in your life with people who have been there and can understand. It makes you feel less like a freak. It takes away the loneliness where you feel you are the only one going through this."

Over the next 18 months they wrote down 16 other M&Ms or "Marriage Ministry" principles common to the recovery of their marriages. Equally important, they began working with other couples in crisis and found the M&Ms transplantable.

What are some other M&Ms? Three are related to a "Commitment to God:"

  1. I experienced God's love and forgiveness.

  2. I made a decision/commitment to love Christ, mate and self.

  3. Once obedient to God we were able to love my His standards, not ours.

Lowell Weddington and his wife were not Christians and had enormous problems communicating. "We tried humanistic answers: `I'm Ok. You're OK.' Nothing worked. So we said, why not try God? We went to church and were born again. We realized the Lord really loved us and we began to love ourselves."

Other M&Ms involve a "Commitment to Partner:"

  1. We/I made a decision to stay together.

  2. We/I accepted my mate as he/she is.

The most important others were:

  1. I realized the problem was with myself.

  2. I became aware I needed to change, became willing to change, learned what and how to change, and began to change with God's help.

Over 5 years, the seven couples met with 40 marriages in crisis and saved 38 of them! I wrote a column about this innovation, sparking 1,500 letters to Rev. McGinnis.

A rewarding response!

Please write your reactions to my questions above and I'll send you all 17 M&Ms.


Copyright (c) 2016 Michael J. McManus is a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers.

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