Would You Like to Put the Past Behind You and Start Over?

I’m talking about in your marriage. Many couples have so much pain from past failures that they have a hard time moving ahead. Time alone, will not heal hurts. Healing comes when we are willing to confess our failures and change our behavior. Some of us would like to leave out the confession part and just focus on being different in the future. However, confession is essential to the healing process. Even God requires confession before He forgives. I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Confession means that we admit to our spouse that what we did is wrong. We accept responsibility for our failure and request forgiveness.

Most of Us Will Admit That We Are Not Perfect

From time to time we say and do things that are not loving, kind, or helpful. In a marriage, these failures build into walls of separation. If you would like to remove past failures, you must first identify them. Get pen and paper and then, ask God to bring to your mind, the ways you have hurt your spouse in the past. Now, go to your children individually and ask them to tell you times when they have seen you being unkind to your spouse. Get ready, because children can be brutally honest. Then ask the same question to close friends who have had the opportunity to observe your behavior. This process can be painful, but it is the first step in dealing with past failures.

The Biblical Picture of Marriage

The biblical picture of marriage is the blending of two lives into a new unit which will both satisfy the individuals involved, and serve the purposes of God. Our hearts cry out for intimacy. We were made to share life with another. God created marriage to be the most intimate of all human relationships. We are going to share life: emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. The degree to which we experience this kind of intimacy, to that degree we find deep satisfaction in marriage. To the degree that we fail to do this, we find marriage very empty. Thousands of couples have never experienced what God designed marriage to provide. They live isolated independent lives. Intimacy requires commitment. Commitment to talk, listen, and seek to understand. Together we plan and live our lives in fellowship with God. This is marriage at its best!

God’s Purpose For Marriage

What is the purpose of marriage? Sex? Companionship? Love? To provide a home for children? Social acceptance? Economic advantage? Security? In the Bible, God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good for man to be alone”. The word means ‘cut off, isolated’. God’s answer? “I will make him a helper suitable for him.” God created Eve and said: “the two shall become one flesh.” It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “one” is the same word that is used of God. “ Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one…” It means – composite unity. Father, Son, and Spirit – God is one. Each carrying out a different role, but one. So in marriage, the two are one. Intimacy, unity, oneness is at the heart of God’s purpose for marriage.

You Can Keep Love Alive

Seldom does a husband and wife have the same primary love language. We tend to speak our own language and wonder why they don’t respond. The reason is, they did not get the message, on an emotional level. You express your love by doing things for your spouse, but what they want is physical touch. Your spouse gives you a gift, but what you really want is quality time. You are both sincere, but you are not connecting. Once you discover and speak your spouse’s primary love language, I believe you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. Love need not evaporate after the marriage, but in order to keep it alive, most of us will have to learn a second language. We cannot simply do what comes naturally for us. We must learn to speak their language, and that takes thought and effort. The good news is that you can do it. You can keep love alive in your marriage.

The Five Love Languages Defined

Do you know the 5 Love Languages? Here they are:

l. Words of affirmation – using words to build up the other person. “Thanks for
taking out the garbage.” Not – “It’s about time you took the garbage out. The
flies were going to carry it out for you.”

2. Gifts – a gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”

3. Acts of Service – Doing something for your spouse that you know they would
like. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service.

4. Quality time – by which I mean, giving your spouse your undivided attention.
Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off – talking and

5. Physical touch – holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse, are all
expressions of love.

Out of these five, each of you has a primary love language which speaks more
deeply to you than all the others. Discovering each other’s language and speaking
it regularly is the best way to keep love alive in a marriage.

People Speak Different Love Languages

With all the books, magazines, and practical help available, why is it that so few couples seem to have found the secret to keeping love alive after the wedding? I believe the problem is: we have overlooked one fundamental truth – people speak different love languages. One husband said: “I tell her how beautiful she is. I tell her I love her. I tell her what a good mother she is. None of that seems to matter. She says she doesn’t feel my love. I don’t know what else to do.” His wife’s response: “If he loved me, he would help me around the house. All he does is watch TV. The problem?  He is using words. She is crying for actions. If he wants her to feel loved, he must learn to speak her language. It’s as simple as that.

The ‘In-Love’ Illusion is Temporary

The “in love” experience, which leads most of us to get married, is an emotional obsession that leads us to the conclusion that we have married the most wonderful person in the world. It’s an illusion, but it seems real, and it is one of life’s greatest emotional highs. But why doesn’t it continue after marriage? Because it is an illusion. That is why, before marriage, your mother could see their flaws, but you could not. Your mother said: “Darling have you considered that he’s always late? You reply, “Oh Mom, it doesn’t matter. He is so much fun when he does get here.” But when the illusion is gone, It does matter, and you start saying: “Why are you always late?” He is blown out of the water. He hasn’t changed. It is just that the illusion is gone.

The in-love illusion is temporary. It’s average life-span is two years. This doesn’t mean that love is destined to die. It does mean that we must now work at keeping it alive.

We Must Seek Reconciliation

Where do we turn for help when we are separated? In the Bible we find not only what we ought to do, but also the encouragement and power to do it. The words of Paul become our own: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When we turn to the Bible for guidance, we discover that the Bible calls us to seek reconciliation. Divorce is not God’s desire. It is true that ultimately you cannot keep your spouse from divorcing you. Even God had to grant Israel a divorce because she refused to turn from her sinful ways. But that was after years of seeking reconciliation. (And even yet, God has not given up on Israel – there will be future reconciliation.) So we must seek reconciliation. Even if our spouse ultimately refuses our efforts, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that we were faithful to the biblical ideal.

WILL You Work On Your Marriage?

Perhaps you are saying: “I’m not sure that I want to work on my marriage. I’ve tried. I’ve given and given. It won’t work, and I may as well get out now!” I am deeply sympathetic with your feelings. I know that when we have tried again and again without success, we may lose our desire to try again. We see no hope, so we conclude that we have no alternative but to give up. Our emotions no longer encourage us to work on the marriage. That is why I never ask people, “Do you want to work on your marriage?” I always ask, “WILL you work on your marriage?” At the point of separation, we have lost much of our “want to”. But we must remember our values, our commitments, and our dreams. We must make wise choices in spite of our feelings of depression or hopelessness. When we chose to work on our marriages, we have all the help of God. God will not force your spouse to deal with issues and return to the marriage, but He will give you wisdom and strength as you seek to follow His will.