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Marriage 911 08/08/17

What to Do When the Damage's Been Done in Your Marriage

unhappy couple not talking

Rebuilding a marriage is a process, not an event! Earning broken trust is the same—a process, not an event.

While this may seem obvious, many believe their marriage should improve the moment they improve their behavior. They mistakenly believe changed behavior, no matter how temporary, is like a switch that can be turned off and on.

"I thought she should notice all the good things I was working on," Tim said to me recently. "I was working hard and I expected my wife to not only notice, but pat me on the back."

His wife, Kelly rolled her eyes.

"It doesn't work like that," she said to him. "You've caused a lot of damage in our marriage and just because you've been nice for a few weeks doesn't take away all the pain you've caused."

"I didn't think it would be magic," he said. "But, you could at least notice and give me some acknowledgement."

She wasn't impressed.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

"Look Tim," she continued. "We've been married 30 years and most have them have not been pleasant for me. You've done a lot of damage to my heart. I'm not sure how long it will take for me to recover. Besides that, how do I know I can count on the change? I've seen you change for a week or two before."

"Well, I suppose you can't," he said sharply. "Nothing in life is guaranteed."

"That doesn't make me feel very good," she said, looking over to me.

I had worked with Tim and Kelly for several months and knew their marriage had been rocky for years. I knew Tim had been verbally abusive and Kelly's heart had grown bitter. She had distanced herself to protect her heart. They had been working on improving their marriage.

"It's going to take a lot of work Tim," I said. "Kelly is doing her part to heal her heart and is working very hard to save your marriage. But, you will have to show her consistency in changing. Consistency convinces."

Both Tim and Kelly had their work cut out for them. Here are some additional steps needed by both if they were going to save their marriage:

1. Healing cannot begin until troubled behavior stops.

While you may want your mate to trust you, healing cannot begin until the destructive behavior stops. While no one has to be perfect, there must be a clear trending towards healthy behavior. Boundaries must be clear and expectations agreed upon. Significant efforts must be made, which include counseling, to change the damaging behavior.

2. Perceptions change over time.

Perceptions do not instantly change. Once one has gained a negative reputation, it takes a great deal of positive change to alter one's perception. Solomon wisely said, "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth. Favor is better than silver and gold."

3. Setbacks must be carefully managed.

While no one is expected to be perfect, setbacks or relapses are especially damaging. When one occurs, both must talk about it, acknowledge the impact of it and discuss repercussions. The person breaking the agreement must take immediate responsibility for it and the consequences that occur from it. Immediately get back into a recovery process. 

4. Manage expectations.

Changing reputations is difficult at best. Be careful in managing expectations. Know that reversing a negative reputation and regaining trust can only be done one step at a time. Catch each other doing things right, while confronting any troubling behavior. Show patience but clarity in expectations.

5. Consistency convinces.

In the end, consistency convinces. Nothing alters a negative perception or earns back trust like positive actions done again and again. When our heart is truly changed, positive behavior will follow. When our heart is changed and transformed, our behavior will most certainly follow.

Are you striving to change your reputation? If you would like more information on restoring a marriage hurt by broken promises, we are here to help. Share your feedback below or send us a confidential note and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.marriagerecoverycenter.com. You'll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, our special Marriage Intensives, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

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