I worked with a couple again this past week. Having been married for 17 years, they have long since left their high school sweetheart days, the early years of marriage and even survived ‘the seven year itch.’
As they introduced themselves and prepared for their work with us, clearly a sadness had set in, and thus the reason for their Marriage Intensive.
“We have drifted away from each other,” Kate said, brushing her long brown hair from her face. “I can hardly remember that young couple who were so in love.”
“Tell me more about how you came to fly across the country for this marriage work,” I said.
“Well,” she said slowly, her husband Jeb watching intently, “we either have to make it work or not. It’s time to make a clear decision.”
“How about you, Jeb?” I asked. “How are you and what do you hope to get from this Marriage Intensive?”
“I suppose the same as Kate,” he said, appearing serious and distant. “I don’t know if I think about how we were when we were young, but it would be nice to get some of that back.”
We spent the next three days exploring wounds they had created and never fully healed. They shared about his emotional affair some years earlier. They shared about his work, which is so demanding, and how it left little quality time for them. I learned about their children, a source of pride but also taking large doses of their energy.
At first, Jeb and Kate talked from a voice of blame and shame.
“If it wasn’t for you………”
“You’re the one who………..”
“I’ll never get over when you……..”
Gradually, however, they learned how to share their feelings. They learned to stop the accusations, to seek forgiveness and to ask for what they would like moving forward. Through constructive sharing and expressing feelings, hour after hour, the iciness between them began to melt. In three days, they moved from detached and distant to engaged and actively caring for each other.
Watching a couple move from shame and blame, fault-finding and accusations to caring and loving confrontation and sharing is a most satisfying part of my work. Watching a couple share tears together over the time they’ve lost, the wounds they’ve created and seek healing through caring, attention and prayer, is amazing.
At one point during the Marriage Intensive, Kate looked at Jeb and tearfully shared the following story:
“I’ll never forget those two young people who fell crazy in love with each other. But, that was a lifetime ago. We can’t get those years back. But, we can build upon the future. Scripture says that God brings beauty for ashes and I believe that. I can see you clearly now for the man you are becoming. I want to be with that man.”
Jeb’s coldness melted completely away as he tearfully reached out for Kate. Embracing, they vowed to live their lives together more caringly.
Perhaps you’ve allowed time and troubles to rob you of the love you once felt for your mate. Consider taking the following actions:
1. Grieve over your past.
It’s OK to acknowledge the mistakes you’ve made and the impact they’ve had on your relationship. Sit together and share how the wounds were created, the impact they’ve had and what you need how to heal.
2. Name the wounds that have been created.
Acknowledge to each other how your wounds have harmed you. Note how you are different and ask your mate to help you heal and recover.
3. Take responsibility for hurting each other.
Listen carefully to your mate and own where you have failed each other. Empathize with your mate’s pain and fully embrace their feelings.
4. Make a commitment to change.
Vow to be different in the future. Where you have failed, make appropriate amends. Share how you will act differently in the future and then set out to do it.
5. Share with each other how you will live differently in the future.
While you can’t reclaim the past, you can make the future be bigger and brighter than you can imagine. Pray together and share your hopes and dreams for your incredible relationship.
Please visit our website for a free download of my eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams. Also, share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and yourrelationshipdoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Take the time to visit our new website, www.thecenterforhealing.org, which is our retreat and healing center for women.