We’ve all been hurt by our spouse and we’ve all hurt our spouse. Spouses forget each other, ignore each other, criticize each other. Is it abnormal? No. These marital “fender benders” happen because we’re two imperfect people. But when we don’t know what to do after hurting each other, we’re in trouble.
Are you allowing marriage “fender-benders” to pile up — secretly hoping that time will heal the wounds? The truth is: It won’t. Instead, those hurts will fester, harden your heart, and drive a wedge between you and your mate.
But that doesn’t have to happen. We’ve developed a step-by-step plan to heal the hurts that happen in a marriage. No matter how long you’ve been married, or how much hurt has been caused in your marriage, this plan can help you stop the cycle of pain and start rebuilding intimacy.
But to start healing the hurts in your marriage, three things need to happen:
1. You need to come to grips with the reality that you and your spouse cause each other pain from time to time. Admit that both of you are responsible.
2. You need to know what to do when the inevitable conflicts and pain occur in your marriage. The Bible has a plan for working through marital fender benders and head-on collisions. You both need to internalize that plan until it becomes second nature.
3. You need to put God’s plan into practice when conflict and hurt happen in your marriage. Warm feelings and good intentions won’t cut it.
Gary discovered a biblical plan to heal hurt and rebuild trust while counseling families in private practice. During those years, God gave him insight to draw up a plan to help couples visualize where they are in their marital breakdown, determine how they got there, and experience forgiving love. This concept has helped heal and revitalize countless marriages. We refer to it as “The Loop,” and we go through it step-by-step in our book, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage
. Here’s how it works:
• The Open Loop of Conflict.
The loop opens when your spouse says or does something that hurts you, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Instead of addressing the hurt and resolving the conflict, you either strike back or bury your anger. Even if you let the issue die down, the painful loop is still open.
• The Fork in the Road.
Every time you open a loop of conflict in your marriage — whether it’s an argument or just a difference of opinion — you are faced with two choices. You can choose to resolve the conflict and close the loop, or choose to do nothing and suffer the painful consequences. Not to decide is to decide. If you do not make a choice to close the loop, you are deciding not to resolve the conflict.
• The Closed Loop of Healing.
Once you make the choice to exercise forgiving love in your marriage, God will empower you by his Spirit and will set in motion the healing process. Closing the loop includes six stages: preparing your heart, diffusing your anger, communicating your concerns to your spouse, confronting your conflicts, forgiving your spouse, and rebuilding your trust as husband and wife.
Studying and applying each of the six stages of closing the loop is crucial to healing the hurts in your marriage. Right now, we want to share with you the steps to the first stage of closing the loop: Preparing your heart.
1. Take a Personal Time-Out.
When there is conflict to be dealt with, you need to deal with the issue immediately. It is important to take a personal time-out for self-examination and prayer.
- First, listen to God.
Allow Him to speak to you as you read Scripture. Ask God to help you understand the truth.
- Second, confess your sin.
Pray along with David in Psalm 51
: “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shameful deeds.”
- Third, talk to God in prayer.
Tell him about everything — your failures, fears, hurts, and desire for healing. Pray: “God, give me the understanding to be humble by resolving this issue in a way that honors you.”
- Fourth, determine to be a peacemaker.
Authentic reconciliation requires two people who are committed to peace in their marriage.
2. Look for the Underlying Causes.
Only after rooting out the underlying cause of conflict can you move ahead with genuine healing. If you are angry with your spouse, you need to know exactly where that anger is coming from. Dealing only with the symptoms guarantees that the conflict will recur and probably get worse.
3. Keep Your Marriage the Top Priority.
One of the greatest saboteurs of a healthy marriage relationship is to take it for granted and shove it aside. When we are stretched in a dozen directions at once, the people closest to us are often the ones on the back burner. You may be engaged in “crisis-mode living,” trying to figure out how to keep all your plates spinning. In crisis mode living your bond with your spouse becomes increasingly distant. You hydro-plane over conflicts. If you want a strong bond with your spouse you need to make your relationship a priority over the baggage of busyness.
4. Ask Others to Hold You Accountable.
It takes effort and discipline to keep your heart prepared for dealing with conflicts in your marriage. That’s why we encourage you to draw close to a small group of Christian friends who will help you grow as a husband or wife by holding you accountable. You can do everything from Bible studies to book discussions, from praying together to telling jokes. Confidentiality and mutual respect are a must so you can be yourselves, happy or hurting.
We encourage you to step out in obedience, courage, and humility to close the loop of conflict in your marriage.
Portions of this article were adapted from Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage
, Copyright 2004 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, all rights reserved. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., www.tyndale.com. To order this resource or to find out more about Dr. Gary and Barb — Your Marriage Coaches, visit www.americasfamilycoaches.com or call 1-888-608-COACH.