Karla grew up in a dysfunctional home. As the oldest of four children, she took on extra responsibilities with her mother and siblings. As a child, she didn’t understand why God ignored her mother’s faith and prayers to change her father. As a teen, Karla was angry and rebellious, but she really only wanted her parents to care about her pain and the problems in their home.
She dedicated her life to the Lord at age seventeen. Thinking her family problems were behind her, she married a Christian man at age twenty, confident they would have a good marriage but unaware they both brought their childhood problems into the marriage. She was devastated when they reacted to each other in destructive ways and created a home filled with turmoil and strife.
Desperately disappointed, she tried everything to force her husband to change. He responded to her pushing, nagging, and arguing by resisting change even more. Expending all her energy to get him to see the problems resulted in her loss of control, all the while blaming him. She searched the Bible to understand what God required of her but often felt more confused than when she started.
At her father’s suggestion, she tried a Twelve-Step program. The Twelve Steps helped her to realize that trying to control people, places, and things made her life unmanageable. She discovered she was still affected by her difficult childhood. Being a Christian did not remove the effects of the past or another person’s sinful behavior.
She finally realized she was powerless over her husband and his choices. Letting go of denial meant she had to face the truth about her marriage and take responsibility for her actions that made the situation worse. Over time, she came to believe God could restore and redeem the broken pieces, not only in her life but her loved ones’ lives too.
As she changed, she began to see her husband in a different light—not as a mean man intent on destroying her, but as a man struggling the same way she was with a difficult childhood, hurt feelings, character strengths and weaknesses, and a sin nature. This compassion allowed her to treat him with respect, while taking care of herself and setting boundaries.
She had many regrets over what she felt were wasted years—the years when she could have productively served God instead of being consumed with her marriage problems to the exclusion of everything else. As God restored her dignity and marriage, he also stirred up the gifts and talents he had given her and enabled her to reach out to comfort others with the comfort she had received.
During the days of her difficult marriage, she hung onto Isaiah 61:2-4 (NIV), which says Jesus was sent “to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
The long-devastated places, the ruined cities, the ashes, the mourning, and the spirit of despair have all been replaced in her life with beauty, gladness, a display of God’s splendor, and rebuilt relationships, along with the privilege of helping others to restore their lives and relationships.
Karla Downing, the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.
Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image. She is the author of several eBooks and hundreds of articles on relationship issues, including LifeWay International articles focused on training women’s ministry leaders to help women struggling in difficult relationships.
She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.
Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.