Desperate Straits

Separation means that a marriage is in desperate straits. Healing will require listening, understanding, discipline, change. But hard work can result in the joy of a restored marriage. I know that some of you are saying: “It sounds good, but it won’t work. We’ve tried before. Besides, I don’t think my spouse will even try again. I’m not even sure I want to try.” I understand your feelings, but don’t assume that the hostile attitude of your spouse will last forever, or that your own feelings are permanent. One of God’s gifts to all of us is the gift of choice. We can change. Your spouse may be saying: “I’m through. It is finished. I don’t want to talk about it.” But three week or three months from now your spouse may be willing to talk. Much depends on what you do in the meantime, and much depends on your spouse’s response to the Spirit of God. You pray. You work. You leave the results to God.

Separation Calls for Intensive Care

Separation is not death, although it may seem like “the valley of the shadow of death”. But the shadow of death is not to be equated with death. Separation may be the valley of restoration, and the pain you feel may be labor pains which will give rebirth to your marriage. Separation calls for intensive care, just like that given to those in grave physical danger. The condition of the marriage is “critical”. Proper mediation is essential. Surgery may be required. That will call for the services of a counselor or pastor. What you do in the next few weeks will determine the quality of your life for years to come. Separation is not the time to capitulate. The battle for marital unity may just be beginning. Be assured, God is concerned about the outcome. You can count on Him for supernatural help. He will not abandon you in this time of pain.

Biblical Love Is A Choice

A man said to me recently: “We have a problem. My wife’s sister told us that her husband just left her and is asking for a divorce. She is turning to us for advice. I’m not sure what to tell her. Should she contest the divorce? How do we help her? We have never faced this in our family before!” Many family members can identify with this man. They want to help, but don’t know how.

Thousands of people experience marital separation every year. Many of them sincerely want to know, “What should I do as a Christian?”

First, let me say this, Don’t assume that separation equals divorce. Separation may lead to a restored, enriched, growing marriage. The individuals involved will determine the outcome of separation. Separation is not permanent. It either leads to resurrection or death. The Christian must always seek resurrection.

Do You Need An Evacuation Plan?

If you are living with a verbally abusive spouse, you need an evacuation plan and you need to share the plan with your spouse. Try this: “I want to share with you a decision I have made. As you know, I have talked with you in the past about how deeply I am hurt when you lash out at me with critical remarks. It takes me days and sometimes weeks to get over the pain. I have decided that the next time you lose your temper, I will take some time away from you in order to recover. I think my healing will be faster if we are apart. I will not be abandoning you, but I will be taking a step to correct what has become a very destructive pattern in our relationship. I can’t survive the verbal attacks indefinitely. I don’t believe that is the kind of person you want to be. I’m sharing this with you because I believe in you and want to see you become the person you want to be.” He may get mad, or start crying. She simply follows the plan the next time he explodes. She is clearly communicating: Things are not going to continue the way they are.

Dealing Effectively with Failures

You don’t have to be perfect to have a good marriage. But, you do need to deal effectively with your failures. Otherwise, they sit as barriers to a growing marriage.

How do you get rid of past failures? First, you identify them – write them down; Second, you confess them as wrong – to God and to your spouse; Third, you repent – change your behavior. To confess this week, and then repeat the same behavior next week, does not remove barriers. It makes things worse.

God is in the business of changing lives. Why not sign up for God’s rehabilitation program. Let Him give you the power to break old habits and replace them with acts of kindness and love. You can become the person your spouse deserves.

Admit that You are Not Perfect

“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.

Put the Past Behind You

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.

The Languages of Apology

What do you say or do when you apologize to someone? For some, it’s “I’m sorry.” To them, that is an apology. To others, “I’m sorry,” is just getting started. They want to hear, “I was wrong. I should not have done that. What can I do to make it up to you? I want to find a way that I will not repeat this behavior next week. I do hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.” After two years of research, Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I discovered that there are five ways that people typically apologize. We called them the five languages of apology. Most people only speak one or two of the languages – the ones we were taught as children. In order to apologize effectively, we must learn to speak our apology in a way that the other person will understand.

Apologizing Enhances Self-Esteem

People who grow up with low self-esteem, often find it difficult to apologize. To them, an apology seems to be a sign of weakness. In reality, apologizing enhances one’s self-esteem. People respect the man or woman who is willing to take responsibility for their own failures. Receiving the respect and admiration of others thus enhances how we feel about ourselves. On the other hand, those who try to hide or excuse wrongful behavior will almost always lose the respect and affirmation of others. A sincere apology is always a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness. Apology opens the door to forgiveness. And forgiveness means that we can now continue to grow in our relationship. It’s never too late to learn to apologize.

Barriers are Removed with Apologies

When Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I wrote the book: The five languages of Apology, we discovered that some people almost never apologize. One wife said, “My husband rarely apologizes, because he doesn’t see a lot of what he does as wrong. He finds it hard to admit that he makes mistakes.” This husband is living in an unrealistic world. All of us sometimes make harsh, critical, and unloving comments. When we are unwilling to accept responsibility for our words or behavior we erect a barrier between us and the person we hurt. Barriers are not removed without apologies and forgiveness. In fact, you cannot have a growing marriage without apologies.