Saving Your Marriage
Your marriage vows have been broken. Or your spouse has lied to you, abused you, neglected you. What can you do? You have entertained divorce. But, that seems so painful, more painful than reconciliation. And you think about the possibility of working on your marriage and seeing what would happen. It’s a risk. It’s even scary. You’ve prayed. You’ve wept. Can your marriage be saved? Can God do something to bring healing? Can you forgive? Can you trust him/her again?
I want to guide you through some steps in this course: Healing Your Broken Marriage. Steps which when applied to your life and relationship will help you regain hope and work towards reconciliation, putting the past where it should be: in the past, and moving forward.
If you know Jesus Christ, then, pray and ask Him to help you through this process and this journey. With Christ you and your spouse can begin again, put the affair, the issues and the hurt behind you. When you became a Christian, Jesus gave you a clean slate and helped you to start over. He forgave all of your sins. Your spouse is a sinner as you discovered early in your relationship. Maybe you can begin now to consider the idea of forgiveness.
There are the steps I want to Help you work through: Hoping again, Grieving, Forgiving, Rebuilding Trust and Expressing Yourself.
What will give you hope that you can work through this trauma with your spouse? On a human level, you and your spouse have no doubt worked through trials and disappointments in the past. You have both probably forgiven each other for hurtful words, unkind actions, disrespect, forgetfulness, conflict. Most couples work through issues. Maybe you haven’t worked things out as satisfactorily as you would have liked. Maybe you are still holding on to some resentment and feelings of disappointment. When your spouse lets you down, you remember the many times he/she has done this in the past….. so, the pain is pretty deep.
There are two considerations here. Your ability as a couple to work through issues in the past can give you hope for the future. But, your deep resentment about the past will greatly dim the hope you might have.
So, here is where you can begin. You can start with God. He is the author of hope and the One who can give you inner hope even when things appear pretty bleak.Consider these scriptures:
- Ps 25:5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
- Ps 25:21 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you.
- Ps 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
- Isa 49:23 Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
- Rom 15:13 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hope from God springs up like a fountain, even when life is at it’s bleakest.
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17 (NIV)
It’s ok to be broken. It’s ok to grieve. You must go through that process to come out stronger.
Hemingway wrote: “The world breaks everyone….. but, many are strong at the broken places”. Will you try? Can God give you the strength to work through the brokenness? Are you willing? God is ready to help you. In Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (NIV) Do you believe this?
If you and your spouse are separated, I would recommend that your read this excellent book: Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed by Gary Chapman.
Healing Your Broken Marriage by Grieving
“The Only Way Out of Grief is Through”
Once you face the reality of a loss like an affair in marriage, or the pain of abuse, you need to begin to grieve. Because grief is a process and can’t be cut short, someone said, “The only way out of grief is through”.
Grief forces you to deal with and face the pain of loss, betrayal, fear in the marriage. When your spouse has betrayed you through an affair or abuse….. it seems like he is no longer the person you married. It seems like you have lost that person and now, someone else is standing in his/her place because they can no longer be trusted and no longer have the same character or values you once knew and once trusted. But, first you need to determine how to work your way out of the grief and understand what you are experiencing.
There are many ways to look at the grief process. Dr. kubler-Ross identified this pattern in dying patients: denial “there must be some mistake”; anger “why me?”; bargaining…an attempt to postpone; depression: sorrow over past losses & that to come; acceptance/ reorganization.
Dr. Colin Murray-Parkes defined 4 phases of mourning:
1. A period of numbness occurring close to the time of loss
2. A phase of yearning: for lost one to return; a denial of the permanence
3. Disorganization/despair; bereaved finds it difficult to function in environment.
4. Reorganized behavior…beginning to pull life back together.
You will experience some of the following symptoms:
- shock, sadness, crying; changes in life & roles & responsibilities; fears about the future,
- feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, anxiety, loneliness, confusion, yearning.
- Difficulties with faith, socialization and maintaining normal activities for a time.
- anorexia, somatic distress, fatigue,
- guilt, anger, hostility,
- the normal stages of grief and loss: shock, protest, disorganization, reorganization.
“After a significant loss like betrayal many people have the sense they are going crazy, particularly if they have not sustained a major loss before.” But, you are not a helpless victim of grief. There are actions you can take to help you work through this loss.
Facing the loss with God’s help, placing your hope in Christ, your Savior, experiencing the feelings and work of grief can bring you healing.
When should you get professional counseling? When you can’t accept the reality of the loss: When you get stuck in the past or can’t function. When you withdraw and isolate yourself from the world, and/or become increasingly helpless. It is time to get professional help when depression sets in: When you manifest Major Depression Symptoms:
*over 2 week period.
…lengthy depressed mood
…decreased interest or pleasure in most activities
…significant weight loss or weight gain
…insomnia or hypersomnia
…fatigue or loss of energy …worthlessness or excessive/ inappropriate guilt
…difficulties thinking/ concentrating, indecisiveness nearly every day.
..thoughts of death/suicide*
*If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, get immediate help by calling your family physician and the American Association of Christian Counselors or the National Board or Certified Counselors.
The Bible talks about grief. Gen. 6:6 reads “He was grieved in His heart.” Who is this talking about? God. He experienced grief; He knows what it is like.
When you enter into grief, you enter into the valley of shadows. There is nothing heroic or noble about grief. It is painful. It is work. It is a lingering process. But it is necessary for all kinds of losses. It has been labeled everything from intense mental anguish to acute sorrow to deep remorse.
There are a multitude of emotions involved in the grief process- emotions which seem out of control and often appear in conflict with one another. With each loss comes bitterness, emptiness, apathy, love, anger, guilt, sadness, fear, self-pity, and helplessness.
People in the Bible grieved. Naomi was deeply grieved after the loss of her husband and 2 sons:
Ruth 1:3-5 “Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband”
Naomi not only lost her family, she lost her providers and her dreams for the future.
Ruth 1:8-14 “Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me– even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons– would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!” At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.”
Ruth, Orpah and Naomi wept. Naomi faced reality…she couldn’t provide a husband for them. She expressed anger, and bitterness “The hand of the Lord has gone against me.” “The Almighty has made my life very bitter.” She felt hopeless about the future and her circumstances.
Ruth 1:20-21 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Naomi felt disappointed, angry towards God.
Even so, Naomi and Ruth did what they knew was right and trusted even when they couldn’t understand why God allowed the trials to take place. Then, God provided a redeemer in Boaz for them.
Jesus grieved in the garden of Gethsemane:
Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Luke 22:44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matt 26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” ***Naomi & Jesus felt the pain of suffering and grief yet endured it & submitted to God’s will….
How can you keep from falling apart and “Ride out the storm of grief”? Will this devastation in your marriage shatter your life forever? Grief gives us only one place to go….God.
C.S. Lewis wrote “Relying on God has to begin all over again everyday as if nothing had yet been done”
Paul expressed deep turmoil about hardships he faced:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Cor 1:8-9
In the face of loss, hardship & uncertainty you can..
Discover power in grief by allowing the pain of grief to move you towards God & to learn to rely totally on Him. When you discover that only God can comfort & His presence is more of a reality than ever before…. you discover what’s good about grief and how you can face the future.
St. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 12:9-10…”When I am weak, then I am strong.”
In order to keep from falling apart in the face of this brokenness in your marriage you can begin with:
A. Surrendering and acceptance and prayer: You can use loss to help your faith grow and move you towards reliance on Christ. Let the pain of grief, hurt and woundedness draw you to Christ.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matt 11:28-30 (NIV)
…God hears your prayers, provides comfort and rest.
B. Since “the only way out of grief is through” you need to work through the stages of grief: feel the pain, express it in healthy ways through journaling, prayer, counseling, a close friend. Depend on God for strength to take on new responsibilities and the work of restoring your relationship. Pace yourself. Let other people help.
“The overall purpose of grief is to bring you to the point of making the necessary changes you need to make so you can live with the loss in a healthy way.” N. Wright
It is at this turning point in your life that God works on you and through you….on your character, perspective, behavior helping you to become more Christlike.
What do you need to do to get to the point of living with the loss and the feelings of betrayal in a healthy way? These steps can be helpful for most types of losses.
1. Admit you have experienced a trauma but, that you can go on with the help of God. You need to confront and forgive your spouse who has abused or betrayed you.
2. The next step is to develop your own self and your life to encompass and reflect the changes that occurred because of your loss. Developing self-respect and self-esteem is important in the case of an affair or abuse.
3. The third step is discovering and taking on new ways of existing and functioning which will help you move forward. You can go on despite this brokenness in your marriage. You can regain your life and your marriage……if your spouse commits to work on it. (N. Wright)
“the only way out of grief is through”
It is one thing to work through the grief, it is another thing to make grief …… the affair, the abuse….the focus of your whole life. You need to deal with it and begin moving forward. Move forward now by considering how to forgive your spouse.
Healing Your Broken Marriage by Forgiving
The Power of Forgiveness
It’s challenging to think about forgiving people who have hurt us, isn’t it? We don’t want to let go of the painful memories of abuse, put-downs, broken promises, harsh words, family or work offenses.
One outstanding example of forgiveness occurred when Corrie Ten Boom met a former Nazi Officer who had abused her and her sister during imprisonment, assisting in the death of other prisoners. He told her he had become a Christian and proceeded to ask Corrie to forgive him. As he reached out his hand towards her,
Corrie resisted. Then, in obedience to God, as she extended her hand towards him she felt the surge of the Holy Spirit pour through her in a supernatural act of forgiveness.
Chuck Colson tells the story about a Mrs. Washington who, during a graduation ceremony for inmates completing a Prison Fellowship program, swept to the stage to wrap her arms around a graduating inmate, declaring “this young man is my adopted son.” Everyone had tears in their eyes for they knew that this young man was behind bars for the murder of Mrs. Washington’s daughter.
Accounts like this are amazing! How could people like Corrie and Mrs.Washington endure such great injustices and then turn around to forgive the villains? Yet all they did was purely obey the command: “forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Phillip Yancey wrote: “Forgiveness is another way of admitting, ‘I’m human, I make mistakes, I want to be granted that privilege and so I grant you that privilege.’ “
Forgiveness cancels a debt someone owes us and restores relationship. It is the only solution in a world ridden with sin and evil to help us start over with people and with God.
We learn about real forgiveness at the foot of the cross where Jesus Christ shed His blood to pay for the sins of the whole world. That is God’s kind of forgiveness- – free, sacrificial, no cost on our part.
When we experience His forgiveness we want to obey Him like Corrie and Mrs. Washington, extending that forgiveness to others.
So, how do we practically forgive a spouse who has betrayed us through an affair or abuse? Here are some Steps to Forgivingness. Applying these steps to our lives can help deliver us from bitterness and work towards forgiveness and ultimately the healing of our marriage:
1. We need to know and experience Christ’s love and forgiveness deeply in our own lives. Col. 3:13
2. We can make the choice to forgive. When Corrie Ten Boom extended her hand to the former Nazi officer, she did it choosing to follow Christ versus her feelings. Paul writes in Eph 4:31-32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”NIV
3. Christ can help us overcome negative thoughts and beliefs which block forgiveness. We can ask Him to soften our hearts and change our minds towards our spouses, granting us the power to forgive him/her. Phil. 4:8, 13
4. We can recognize that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. This helps us empathize with those who have injured us. Mrs. Washington’s acceptance of her daughter’s killer was based on her realization that she was a sinner in need of grace as well. Paul writes in Rom 15:7-8
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
5. The Holy Spirit can empower us, when we surrender to Him daily, with the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control towards those who have hurt us…..towards the spouse who has betrayed us. Galatians 5:22-3
6. When it’s still hard to forgive, we can place our trust in God Who will someday judge all the wrongs in the world. We can leave revenge and justice up to Him….. because Proverbs 20:22 says “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.” and Paul writes in Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Revenge won’t give you the peace and satisfaction you need. Revenge and or punishment will only serve to destroy you and your marriage.
7. When we are stuck in unforgiveness, we can ask to talk and pray with a confidante, a pastor or a counselor to help us deal with the resentment and hurt we feel towards the offender. This will provide a context for release of the painful feelings we are experiencing, provide support, and a better understanding of our spouse and our situation.
When others hurt or abuse us, disrespect or humiliate us, we can forgive them as Corrie and Mrs. Washington did. God, Himself, is the power behind our ability to forgive. He can enable us to do the impossible: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”. Phillipians 2:13
Perhaps the most powerful outcome of forgiveness is that it changes and enables us to become more like Christ Who said as He hung dying on the cross… “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
God’s love and grace is the power behind forgiveness, granting us supernatural power to forgive others, the power to overcome resentment, the power to redeem relationships and show God’s love to a hurting world.
……..So, in dealing with forgiving your spouse, you need to decide: “am I going to let this go?”. That is the ultimate question. Are you going to put this affair or abuse in the past? Are you going to let God handle it? If your spouse is not willing to change……to stop having affairs or stop the abuse, then, it’s time to put an end to the marriage. You should not allow yourself or family to be endangered. Neither should you risk
continuing in a marriage where trust cannot be rebuilt because your spouse chooses not to keep his/her vows. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” NIV
Therefore, we can conclude that divorce is allowed by God biblically when there is continued unfaithfulness. Seek pastoral advice regarding this. Read more about affairs and advice for relationships.
Healing Your Broken Marriage by Rebuilding Trust
What does it mean to trust another human being? What should my reaction be when my spouse or significant other breaks my trust through an affair or abuse? Is it possible to rebuild trust in a relationship?
Dear Friend: Here are some summary points I want to make about trust:
First I want to emphasize that trust begins and ends with God. The next fact is that trusting another person has to have a certain expectation of failure and thus be combined with a willingness to forgive. Another point is that you don’t put in a quarter and out drops a can of trust- trust grows over time. People are complex, broken beings therefore, previous hurts, fears or losses can impede their determination to trust and/or be truthful in a relationship. But, people have the capacity to grow in trust and truthfulness. You and God can help build trust into your relationships.
Hebrews 12:1-2 talks about how we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and perfecter of our faith”.
Faith comes from God. Our faith is in God. God is the only One who is eternally and truly faithful. He is the giver of faith and the object of faith. Because of those facts, we need a new understanding of what it means to trust people. What it means to trust a spouse again who has broken trust with you.
Adjust your expectations: People are human, frail, and sinful. Therefore, you need a realistic type of trust when you choose to trust your spouse again. You can trust God totally. If things don’t work out or your prayers aren’t answered, you can say that “God is God and I am not”. “He knows what He is doing and has a plan I don’t understand right now, so I can keep trusting Him. My life and circumstances are in His hands and under His sovereign control.”
But when you are let down by your spouse who breaks promises or doesn’t meet your expectations because he/she is human and fallible, then your trust must remain focused on and in God versus him/her.
You can trust God for your spouse and trust Him to help you through the times he or she may disappoint you. Read more about Faith.
Trusting grows in relationships over time….because as you spend time together with someone you build understanding and authenticity. You gain insight into another person’s needs, motivations and fears. Unconditional love develops trust because as you express God’s agape type of love towards someone- generally he or she will sense your acceptance and feel comfortable to be vulnerable and honest about their feelings. Agape love actually builds self-esteem in others and alleviates their fears of rejection. People learn that they can be authentic with you about their feelings, opinions, and failures. The result is a growing trust in the other person. Not because that person is perfect but because that person is growing in honesty.
1 Cor 13:4-8 says…. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.(NIV)
When love is not patient or enduring; when love is unforgiving and always disappointed… looking for something to go wrong, it generates fear in the other person. Fear-based love is conditional and creates an atmosphere of distrust, dishonesty and instability.
I Jn 4:18 says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (NIV)
You can have a limited trust in your spouse as you grow and recover from the abuse or the affair. Actually, your taking a risk to trust your spouse again will help to build his/her confidence and desire to live up to your expectations. You can stilll be aware that he/she may let you down because they are human. That is reality. That is why Christ had to die for the sins of the world….because you and I and your spouse can never totally keep the law and live perfect, righteous lives. God can claim to be perfectly faithful in everything but we cannot because we are still sinners.
You will never be perfect and therefore, you will probably disappoint someone close to you at different times. You can promise to never say something hurtful or never tell a lie or never exaggerate or always keep your promises or….. (you name it) but the Bible says in Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; …..and in Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (NIV)
The only thing you can promise is that you want to seek God and ask Him to change you to make you more like Christ. Then you and I will become more trustworthy in our relationships, though still not perfect. As Christians you and I are still in the process of sanctification and we still fight sinful tendencies within us (Rom. 7). None of us is perfect.
But, because God has forgiven you totally in Christ, you have a basis on which to forgive others and start trusting them over again. Paul in Ephes. 4:32 writes, “Be kind and compassionate towards one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)
Because of God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you and other Christians are cleansed, righteous, and justified before Him. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. That verse says that since you (and others) still sin you need to continue to confess those sins to keep your relationship with God unobstructed.
That is exactly what needs to happen in human relationships. You and your loved one will still hurt each other, therefore, you both need to become better forgivers and confessors. That ability to reconcile and spirit of humbleness will prove the depth of your love and commitment. The components of love, forgiveness and commitment are as important to trust in a relationship as is honesty. Forgiveness gives you the chance to start over and trust another fallible human being again.
Of course, if your spouse continues to cheat on you, lie to you and abuse you – that is not acceptable. You need to protect yourself, be assertive and set boundaries. We know that God can change people but, only if they let Him! God does not treat us like robots. Your spouse has a will and he/she needs to make the decision to change and treat you in a loving, respectful way. When your spouse is demonstrating change and becoming responsible you can ask God to do the following:
There is Help as you forgive and trust again. There is nothing too hard for the Lord – the Maker of heaven and earth! God can bring the healing and realistic trust back into your relationship. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
When Christ is at the center of your lives- your marriage or other close relationships will prosper greatly. You will no longer have to hide who you are because you know you are forgiven in Christ. You and your loved one will no longer have to be worried about rejection because “there is no condemnation in Christ” and “nothing can separate you from the love of Christ” Rom. 8:1, 39.
Hiding, sin and fears of rejection can be overcome by the love and presence of Christ in our lives. Jesus helps us to become more authentic in relationships- expressing honesty, openness and letting others see our frailties and failures. And even when others reject us, we can be honest and open because we are certain that Christ will never reject us and that He loves us unconditionally. With Christ you can start over with people and determine to put the pain and hurt behind you. With Christ you can trust another Christian again because Jesus is at work in his or her life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17 (NIV)
You can be certain that Christians are in the process of sanctification. You can be sure that God is concerned about His children becoming more like Christ. So TRUST and depend on Him to help your relationship……your marriage….grow in trust, honesty and love. Make these scriptures your prayer for yourself and your spouse:
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)
Healing Your Marriage by Expressing Your Feelings
Expressing Your Feelings is Works to Build Your Relationship
You’ve been feeling very hurt about the affair or abuse in your marriage. Now, it’s time to express your feelings and make a plan at the same time to work on your marriage. You need to be able to make some requests which will bring real healing and growth in your relationship.
Write out what you are disappointed with.
1. Describe the issue that has hurt you and your marriage. Also, describe the process you are going through such as this Example: “I have been thinking about how hurt I feel over the ___________(affair, abuse) and I know the memory of it must be very painful for you as well. I may need to sometimes explain to you how this has hurt me just to get the feelings out. All that I ask is that you listen and support me. I am not trying to punish you. I am determined to work on getting through this and putting it in the past. It will take me some time though.”
2. Make a list of requests and goals which will help you improve your relationship right now. “I would like to make some requests which will help our marriage and trust grow now such as: Dating once a week, going to marriage counseling, going to a marriage retreat, reading a marriage book together.”
You may make other more practical requests such as planning a time to talk about how to discipline children, what chores to complete around the house, social and recreational activities, or planning a budget.
You may ask that he/she attend an anger class if there has been abuse. This is really a necessary step for your relationship when anger and abuse are the issues in your marriage. See the Anger Management Institute: What’s Good About Anger? resources, DVDs, courses & coaching.
3. Learn to work through conflict together. Negotiation is one of the keys to restoring your communication and learning to collaborate on decisions.
Negotiation starts with the premise that the other person’s needs are just as important to him or her as your needs are to you. Nagging, shouting, or being angry or coldly rational usually won’t get others to change their view. Negotiation allows you to find a middle ground when you have a conflict of needs or goals so each person can get something and you can actually work together to achieve the goal.
Know exactly what it is that you want. State it in behavioral terms- what you want the other person to do or not do. “I want you to return the children by 6:30 Sunday night.” or “I don’t want you to use our driveway to change the oil in your car.”
Listen to the other person’s objections. The purpose is to understand his/her position; not to argue or try to convince him/her to give up his/her needs. Be an active listener by using open responses, asking questions, clarifying, and paraphrasing what you understand the other position to be. Don’t be afraid to hear and show support or even empathy for the other person’s view. Just because you understand it doesn’t mean that you have to agree with the point or accept the opposing position. From the information you have gathered, you can take the next step.
**Make a proposal. Your proposal should take into consideration what the other person needs or wants in this situation. If he/she accommodates you, is there something in it for him/her? Be creative and flexible, breaking through the constraints of rules or traditions.
**Make a counterproposal. If the other person won’t accept your proposal, encourage him/her to come up with a different solution. People unfamiliar with negotiation and collaboration may need some help getting started. Remind them that your objective is to understand their position and to find a compromise that both of you can live with.
Here are some typical compromise solutions:
• “My way this time, your way next time.”
• “My way when I’m doing it, your way when you’re doing it.”
• “If you do_____________for me, I’ll do____________for you.”
• “Part of what I want with part of what you want.”
• “Try it my way for a week and see. If you don’t like it, we’ll go back to the old way.”
• “Split the difference.”
You might even say, “I really want to go to Hawaii after this seminar. This is really important to me. What would you need me to do to make it worth your while to go along this time?” I’ll get a second job to afford it or…. Obviously, compromising doesn’t include compromising your values….
After an affair or abuse, you need to set boundaries and goals:
1. Your spouse must break off the relationship completely. This is mandatory. Your spouse can no longer have contact with the former lover. A final letter of closure to the relationship can be written…. ask your spouse to show it to you. Maybe you need to consider getting all new phone numbers. Maybe your spouse will have to change jobs, because he or she cannot be seeing this person at work anymore…… that will be too tempting.
In the Old Testament, Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife who tried to seduce him. That is a principle: run from temptation and don’t put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV) God can and will help us escape temptation. But, we must be willing to obey Him and let Him control our lives so, we have spiritual power to overcome and avoid temptation.
2. Your spouse must end the abuse. This is also mandatory. Your relationship cannot weather more abuse. If this abuse is verbal, then, you both need to attend marriage counseling to learn to change communication. If it is physical abuse, then, your spouse must learn anger control as suggested above….. take a class, go to counseling, take a seminar, go to an anger control support group. And it would be helpful for you to learn how to stop provoking his/her anger and how to bring up problems and issues in an honest, direct yet loving way.
3. You and your spouse need to work on your marriage by going to counseling and to a marriage seminar. If he or she is not willing to do this and you have evidence that he/she lying about seeing another woman or man, then, you must ask him/her to move out and seek legal as well as counseling advice.
You and your spouse can rebuild the romance in your marriage when you move through grief, forgive, begin to restore trust and build your communication together.
You can decide to become your mate’s greatest encourager..
1. Make a decision to never again be critical of your partner. Turn your complaints and criticisms into requests.
2. Spend time developing a sensitivity to your spouse’s needs and build up those areas.
3. Spend time thinking daily of positive qualities and behavior you admire and appreciate in him or her.
4. Consistently express your praise and appreciation for your spouse.
5. Recognize your spouse’s accomplishments.
6. Husbands, publicly and privately show wife how special she is.
7. Wives, show your husband how important he is in your life. Ask his opinion and value his judgments.
8. Respond to each other physically & facially.
9. Be courteous to each other privately & publically.
© copyright 2017 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC
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Lynette J. Hoy is a Marriage and Family Counselor with CounselCare Connection, P.C. in Oak Brook, Illinois. Lynette regularly presents seminars on: women’s issues, assertiveness, “What’s Good About Anger?”, stress and conflict management, PREP’s “Fighting for Your Marriage”, grief and divorce recovery. Lynette is a National Certified Counselor and and credentialed by the National Anger Management Association as a: Certified Anger Management Specialist-V, Diplomate, Supervisor and Consultant. Contact her for seminars, articles or counseling needs at email@example.com or 708-341-5438. See web sites: www.counselcareconnection.org and www.goodanger.com .