Love Month Feature: Justin Davis

February 7, 2011

Have you ever been in a relationship that was on life support?

That’s the question I’m throwing down today, and to help me out, I called up Justin Davis.  Who is Justin Davis?  Well, he’s a campus pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville (that’s Pete Wilson’s church.)  He’s a marriage coach, and he blogs about rescusitating relationships at Refine Us.  How did Justin get his start at helping couples in trouble?  How else?  By having an affair of his own, and rebuilding his marriage piece by piece, a series of events he speaks about extensively now.  I was really excited to get to talk to Justin.  What he shared with me could easily fill five blog posts, but I’ve got the highlights of our conversation here.

You deal a lot with healing marriages that have been damaged.  Can you tell us about the genesis of your blog and ministry?

I’ve come to realize just how sovereign God is, and how long-term He thinks.  Pete Wilson and I go back over ten years as friends, and when the affair came out, Pete and his wife, Brandi were the there to help us through that.  But I really never thought I’d be back in ministry.  I had gone overnight from being in leadership to waiting tables.  We moved away, and went into a “hiding” or “healing” mode for about two years.

Eventually, I was asked by a pastor to tell about our story as part of a series on grace.  We thought there may be a little bit of response, one or two people who’d want my phone number.  But after the service, about seventy-five people stayed after wanting to talk to us until four in the afternoon.  Over the next couple of weeks, the response was overwhelming, and there just wasn’t enough of Trisha and I to go around.

Pete suggested I start blogging, and we started sharing our story at more churches.  Now a few years later, it’s all come full circle.  Pete and I minister together, and I started a non-profit with a not very modest mission: to lower the divorce rate in churches.

Our culture’s marriages now end in divorce at epidemic rates.  What do you think is the cause? 

God created us for intimacy with our spouses, and what people have done since Adam and Eve is we’ve hid from each other and blamed each other.  In marriage we’re called to be “fully known,” and resisting that call to honesty is what destroys intimacy.

I see what you mean, but most people probably think there are a few things that are too hurtful to tell their spouses. 

The lie I believed for years was that if my wife really knew me and all my darkest secrets, she’d leave me.  If that’s how your marriage works, it’s not based on unconditional love.  When people divorce, it’s easier to say they have irreconcilable differences, rather than say those differences were caused by withholding truth.

Accountability partners are a pretty popular tool these days, especially for struggling men.  Do these have a place in marriage? 

Perhaps, but if marriages functioned the way they’re supposed to, we’d have no need for accountability partners, because we wouldn’t be withholding struggles, secrets, or insecurities from one another.

Especially for men, accountability partners can become a crutch so they don’t have to be honest with their wives.  If you’re being dishonest with your spouse, because you think they’ll leave you, then it’s a fact that your marriage is sick.  It’s just a question of your marriage dying instantly of a heart attack with your honesty, or slowly from cancer with your dishonesty.

Is there a pattern you see in marriages that are in trouble, or some red flags people can look for in their marriages?

Men and women destroy intimacy in their marriages in different ways.  In general, withholding truth is primarily a guy thing, and resentment and unresolved grudges generally plague women.  You generally don’t see many guys having problems with being angry with their wives for fourteen years.  

So while men become dishonest with their wives, women often become slow to forgive.  That pattern develops until men begin to count the cost of being honest, and when the cost becomes too high, (like having two hour arguments over something small, because of the wife’s unresolved anger), they know better than to be honest and then withdraw even more, and so wives become even more resentful.

When a couple comes to you, what’s the first step in getting their troubled marriage back on track?

Our personal stories affect our marriages to a huge degree, so we try to hear the couples’ histories.  My parents divorced after my Dad’s secret pattern of infidelity for thirty years.  He never told me how to tell a lie and get away with it, it was just modeled.  So I brought manipulation and deceit into my marriage that I didn’t even realize.  You have to get those stories in order to identify problems.

What does it take to get a marriage back on track that’s been through a huge crisis like an affair?

An affair gets the headlines and says there is a crisis.  But when you go to the doctor and he finds a cancerous tumor, you’ve had that tumor for a long time, and it’s been developing without you knowing it.  I don’t try to fix marriages.  I try to help men and women become new people, because that’s what it’s going to take.  If men and women don’t want to become people who will love unconditionally, there’s no point.  You don’t need an improved version of your broken marriage.  You need a new marriage.  Even with infidelity, the affair is not the problem, it’s a symptom of the real problem, and success is couples identifying the real problem, so it’s not repeated.  Just treating the affair is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

Be sure to visit Justin’s blog, but before you do, tell us about your marriage resuscitation success stories (or any story you want to share), or leave questions for Justin.

25 responses to Love Month Feature: Justin Davis

  1. Great interview!

    I have a question, though. Let’s say “hypothetically” that a married woman confides in me: “if my husband really knew me and all my darkest secrets, he’d leave me.” This isn’t something she’s confided in anyone else because she was afraid that they’d judge her, too.

    Now, I’m not married. Don’t even have a boyfriend. And I’m decently younger than her. But I have a Bible, and I have the Gospel, and between the two, I feel moderately equipped. She’s shared her burden with me, and we’re supposed to share the load.

    How do I exhort and encourage her? I feel like asking her to find an older married woman to talk to, while wise and probably preferable, would also be more like dumping her on someone else without even trying.
    Jo_of_TSN recently posted..Conform no longer to this world- but be transformed by wearing aprons

    • You never know how God will use you. It could be that she just needs someone to listen, and you can do that. God may give you a word for her. And your acceptance of her despite her secrets may give her the confidence she needs to share with others.

  2. I wish I had a marriage resuscitation story to share with you but my first marriage crashed and burned. A lot of things Justin referenced came into play with it. The good that’s come out of it is that I avoid those things with my current wife. The marriage isn’t perfect by any measure but it’s significantly better than my first & it’s getting stronger all the time.
    Jason recently posted..Day 37- Beautiful weather and new discoveries

  3. I discovered Justin (and Trish’s) blog through Pete’s blog. Having been married for 21 years I don’t have a resuscitation story (only by the grace of God). But I find there is so much in Justin’s blog that is good for the on-going health of even a great marriage.

    The keys to our marriage – honesty, Jesus, respect, grace, compromise, and more grace.

  4. Regular reader (and sometime commenter), excuse the ‘anonymous’ for obvious reasons (to follow).
    I just subscribed to Justin’s blog. I found out (3 weekends ago) that my wife was having a relationship with a colleage of hers. Talk about the crappiest 3 weeks of my life. Apparently the relationship was never physical, and is over. Divorce is not an option for either of us, but my problem is I have no idea where to go from here. We can’t talk about it cause it just leads to fights.
    I’m trying to get a therapist/counselor to help me work through the whole thing, just finding the right one is daunting.
    I’m just having a hard time pulling it together right now.

    • That’s rough, man. I’m going to be praying for you. Finding the right counselor is really important, and can be difficult. I don’t know about your town, but my city has two (that I know of) Christian counseling centers. They counsel from a biblical perspective, but they are all licensed therapists – no amateurs. I took a few classes with their profs in seminary, and they were really solid. A place like that is where I would start looking.

    • Anon…you can email me at justin (at) refineus.org if my wife and I can help you in any way. Praying for you.

    • You’re on the right track w/ counseling. Don’t dismiss their relationship, an emotional affair is harder to get over than a physical one. I’m really sorry for your pain. Press in to Jesus, pour your heart out to Him between sessions. Journal. It helps to verbally vomit your thoughts, so they get out of your head. (Hope I’m not overstepping here…)

    • Read a book called “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” by Anne Bercht. Someone gave us a copy and it was very helpful. We read it separately and came together to talk about it.

    • I’m the original “Anon” in this comment thread.
      It seems that divorce (or separation at least) was not “not an option for either of us”. After spending the last 16 months doing everything possible to win her heart back, she moved out over the weekend. Her justification is, in her words “I just don’t want to be married any more”.
      The truth is is that one part of a couple can’t rescue a marriage. It really does take “two to tango” and in our case it turns out that she was just not interested in fixing what was broken.

  5. It’s been too long since I’ve been back at this blog! Great interview. It’s so sad to see marriages around me crumbling, including our immediate families. But, it’s truly amazing when God can repair a marriage that has been completely shattered. I’m so glad you’re talking about this…there’s just too much in the way of “we just weren’t happy” and we need to get back to “till death do us part.”

  6. My favorite resuscitation story involves a married copule who went through a VERY public divorce because of adultery. It was terrible and people talked about it at length. And then they realized that they were better together than they were apart and that, with God’s love and grace, they could reconcile. Which is what they did. I wrote a little about it here: http://wp.me/p52ry-9F
    seekingpastor recently posted..Feet and Butt

  7. Thanks for sharing Justin! I just clicked over to y’all’s site and very much appreciated your honesty! Thankfully, hubs and I have survived thus far (5 years on Friday!), but I struggle with the fear that, due to his ADD, he’ll get bored with me. He struggles with the fear that (due to his ADD) I’ll get fed up with him. It’s good to know that we’re doing some things right already and to have a few more weapons in the arsenal to defend our marriage!

    So glad you included this post in your series, Matt!
    Princess Leia recently posted..Shoeboxes!

    • That is awesome…congrats you guys! Trisha and I talk all the time about fear. Perfect love drives out fear and we pray all the time for God to help us overcome the fear that tries to come between us!

  8. Thanks for this interview. I passed on Justin’s blog url to my close friend who is in a troubled marriage. I’m praying she (and her husband) will check it out and it can be a good tool for the restoration of their marriage.
    Sarahbeth recently posted..Pour Out

  9. Having these resources on marriage are so invaluable. Thanks, Matt.
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Interpreting the Bible- Truth or Deceit

  10. Princess Leia, the ADD thing is a struggle in my marriage also, I’ve found this site to be very helpful.
    http://www.adhdmarriage.com/

    Looking forward to reading Justin’s blog.

  11. Thanks for this interview. I discovered Justin (and Trish’s) blog through Pete’s blog. How do I exhort and encourage her?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Tweets that mention Love Month Feature: Justin Davis | The Church of No People -- Topsy.com - February 7, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Davis and Richard Jett, Matt Appling. Matt Appling said: If you are, have ever, or will ever have a conflict w/ your spouse, read my convo with @justindavis33 http://wp.me/pSZSu-rm […]

  2. // saturday round-up (12/02) « worship music should sound like this - February 12, 2011

    […] // love month: justin davies – Matt at The Church of No People is blogging about love for a whole month. There’s some great stuff up there already, but his interview with Justin Davies, marriage coach at Cross Point Church in Nashville, is absolutely unmissable, and an interesting contrast to Anne Jackson’s story. Go here. […]