By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
“There doesn’t seem to be any hope for us,” a woman said to me recently.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“I’ve asked him to change and he throws it all back on me,” she continued. “I’m getting so resentful now and I’m not sure if I want it to work.”
“It sounds like you are both hurting,” I said. “He sounds very threatened and when threatened he comes out fighting.”
“That’s him,” she said.
“And what do you do?” I asked.
“Retreat,” she said. “I stand in there and argue for a while and then I just shut down. There’s no getting through to him and so I withdraw. To be fair, I do my share of provocation.”
“What do you do?” I asked.
“I say nasty things because I’m so upset,” she said. “I just have so much resentment built up. I can’t keep it all in. I think it’s the same way with him.”
As I took a detailed history from this distraught woman, I heard much the same story that I’ve heard thousands of times—two people who hurt each other and then grew more and more distant because of that hurt. Two people who once loved each other but who, because of their wounds, now only felt resentment.
Are those marriages doomed to failure? Is divorce their only option, only hoping to find happiness in the future with someone new with whom they have no troubled feelings? While this view may be common, this perspective is short-sighted.
Consider these points of view:
First, it’s possible that your love is still alive but buried beneath many wounds. Tim and Gina agreed that they could never allow hard feelings to creep into their relationship. They discussed how resentment and bitterness had nearly destroyed their marriage and they were not going to allow that to continue to occur. Healthy relationships are built upon honesty, trust and resulting intimacy.
Second, it’s possible to heal those wounds. They agreed that honest sharing would only occur if both worked to create an environment of safety and receptivity. Both agreed to encourage the other to share, using principles of gentleness and truth spoken in love.
Third, it’s possible to get expert care to help you heal wounds and see each other in a new way. They agreed to discern whether something needed to be shared, deciding to share if the feelings would later create resentment. They agreed to cultivate healthy boundaries, honoring who they were as individuals and who they were as a couple.
Fourth, it’s possible to discover care and healing again. They agreed to monitor their agreements/ boundaries made, discussing them as regularly as needed. They further agreed that “peace at any price” was not something they wanted in their marriage, preferring instead an authentic connection.
Finally, anything possible. They agreed that boundaries were sacred, to be honored with dignity. They finally agreed that there would need to be “acts of restoration” for times when either made it difficult to share openly or when boundaries were violated. They knew they would be prone to become lax and that this would hurt their relationship. Therefore they would hold each other accountable for keeping boundaries and speaking truth in love.
Do you struggle to speak truthfully to your mate? Are you guilty of ‘keeping the peace at any price?’ If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group for women struggling with emotional abuse.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/AntonioGuillem