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Marriage 911

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Dr. David Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center and has been helping couples in crisis restore and revitalize their relationships for more than 30 years.

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Fighting for Your Marriage


Zeb and his wife, Debra had been separated for several months after years of conflict had left them both feeling unable to remain together. They were fighting each other -- instead of fighting for their marriage. Feeling profoundly discouraged, they had separated to “get some peace”.

 

Zeb reached out to me, asking if there was any hope for reconciliation. Knowing little about their issues, except that they “fight constantly,” I told him there certainly was hope. As long as there is any desire for reconciliation, I told him, there was always hope.

 

“But what about the constant fighting?” he asked, watching me carefully as I considered his question.

 

“Well,” I said slowly. “We can figure out why you fight, and more important, how you fight. Understanding your destructive patterns will give us insights about who needs to change what. Then, we can set out to make those changes.”

 

Zeb was definitely interested.

 

“I’d love to get back with Deb,” he said sadly. “We’re just so tense whenever we talk, and then it makes matters worse. I just don’t know what to do. Would you consider talking to her?”

 

We agreed I would talk to his wife and see if she was interested in talking about reconciliation. I placed a phone call to her, and while she readily agreed to talk to me, she was at first cool to the idea of reconciliation.

 

“I don’t know,” Debra said. “We were fighting so much, and I like the peace I’ve found living alone. I don’t want to go back to that.”

 

“What if you could go back to Zeb and have things different?” I asked. “Would that be of interest to you?”

 

“Of course,” she said. “But, all we did was fight, and I’m not interested in that. He isn’t really interested in changing, and I’m not interested in going back to him unless he does. Why did he even have you call me?”

 

“Because he actually is interested in changing,” I said, “and is interested in doing whatever it takes to save his marriage. I know you folks have had a rough time and are very discouraged with each other.”

 

“Did he tell you about the last time we got together?” Debra asked, sounding more irritable.

 

“No he didn’t,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

 

“Because, we met at a restaurant and weren’t together five minutes before we were fighting. It felt like he was ready to fight, and I’ve got to admit, I didn’t act a lot better. That’s the kind of thing I can’t stand. I just don’t want to live like that.”

 

“Well, Debra,” I said. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to live like that. However, I want to reassure you that things can be different. I’d like to suggest that the three of us talk and dissect exactly what happened at that meeting and why it happened. If we can understand what you two do, and if you’ll take responsibility for changing those patterns, we can break the cycle of fighting. Sound interesting?”

 

There was a moment of silence as Debra considered my request. After a few moments, she shared her feelings.

 

“I will do this,” she said haltingly. “But, I’m not going back to what I left. I’d love to believe things can be different, but I really am not convinced of that. I’ll give this a try though.”

 

I continued talking to Debra and prepared her for a counseling session. I could sense her trepidation and her wounds from years of hurting each other. While she wanted to save her marriage, she wanted peace more. I laid out the strategies needed to enhance the possibility of our session going well. These are the tools I have shared with others with remarkable success.

 

First, you must be prayed up. We need God’s power and courage to go back into a frightening situation. When you’ve mustered all the courage you have to leave a troubling marriage, it isn’t easy to go back. God promises to go before us into any kind of danger, and His strength will see us through this kind of situation as well.

 

Second, be willing to listen to your mate. You cannot hear anything your mate, or counselor, says to you when your defenses are high. When meeting for the possibility of beginning reconciliation, it is imperative that you be willing to listen and learn from your mate and the counselor leading the way. You must be open to hearing things you’d rather not hear.

 

Third, you must own your part of the problem. There are usually two people participating in a destructive dance. If one, or ideally both, recognize their part and are willing to change it, success is possible. Go to the meeting with humility, “not thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.” (Romans 12:3) Approach this situation having a teachable spirit.

 

Fourth, agree on a time and place to deal effectively with old wounds. For the present moment you must be driven by the need to ‘do no harm,’ and instead plant seeds of reconciliation. Remember that your ultimate desire is to save the marriage, restoring the relationship to a place of trust and love. This is possible if you will ‘contain the conflict,’ receive expert guidance, and move slowly back into a relationship that is respectful and pleasing to both. Remember that it is God’s desire to “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

 

Finally, leave your bat at home. Many have trouble finding their way back to each other because they’ve been hurt and want to hurt back. Bristling with anger and irritability, this attitude pushes the other away. While extremely difficult to do, you must bring good will, humility, and an inviting spirit to the table. Anything less is a set up for failure.

 

So, agree to that counseling session and take every precaution to make it a success. Building upon that initial success, rediscover the love that has always been in your marriage while working with a professional to eliminate the unhealthy patterns of fighting. Take one step at a time, one moment of success built upon the other, and pray that God will melt away the hostility as problems are solved.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at therelationshipdoctor@gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my Web site, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and yourrelationshipdoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency, rejection by your mate, and affair-proofing your marriage.


Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 4:29 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

Just wanted to say how much I appreciate this excellent and most helpful article. Every ingredient is crucial, but what struck me most was the first ingredient "First, you must be prayed up". We can have good intentions, and seem to understand all the psychological make up of a conflict and what needs to be done to make things right, but there is the "weakness of the flesh"..."the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak". Thank God for His grace and mercy and the privilege of prayer to access this.
Left by VictorKano on Feb 24, 2010 3:50 AM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

The Bible says the wife should submit to her husband. I know this is easier said than done, however there is wisdom in thinking before one speaks. There is also wisdom in the wife not reacting so fast and (after having sppoken once or twice, getting nowhere)to finally keep quiet but instead turn back to the Lord in prayer.A soft answer turns away wrath.
Left by ElizabethA on Feb 24, 2010 6:34 AM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

Anyone been married to a contentious man. I have and I am still married. Not for long though. It never did anygood to softly respond and I mean never. Prayed up, you bet. When a husband decides that it his right to abuse his wife at any cost even if he is spirit filled, there is nothing that can be done. So, submit to abuse, tell me where in the bible does it say to submit to abuse? When a man acts likes a heathen, mixes up love with hate. It is all deception. So, religious women get a grip on some reality. There are abusive Christian couples in the church right now and the Leadership turn their heads. You tell a woman to get more godly, while the man is allowed to continue in his path to hell.
Left by Anonymous on Feb 27, 2010 5:18 PM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

I was in abusement marriage before, abusement of mentally and phsyically. Everything has its own purpose including marriage. The important is always know our destiny of life which an eternal life in heaven. That is strenght to overcome the pain from whatever abusement. Marriage only happen in this world cos we are still in spirit + flesh but in heaven no more cos no more flesh only spirit. Thanks Lord Jesus for the comfort.
Left by prescilia on Feb 28, 2010 7:58 AM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

After being in an abusive relationship, I have been blessed to find a wonderful, Christian man. I am happy to be submissive to my husband-he deserves that respect. I do have trouble with it, but strive for submissiveness because the Bible tells us that is what God wants. That doesn't mean to allow yourself to be abused. A man who is following the word of God would not abuse his wife. Ephesians 5:28 "A man ought to love his wife as he loves his own body. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself." Jesus submitted himself to our sins, in reverance to Christ we should submit to one another. (Ephesians 5:21)
Left by happy2bmommy on Mar 05, 2010 7:19 AM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

Men are sometimes abused by their wives. Men are not usually viewed as victims because they are men. Women who abuse men believe they are not causing harm because they are the "weaker" partner. Emotional, physical and psycological pain hurts the recipient, no matter their gender.
Left by Isabel on Mar 06, 2010 7:53 AM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

I was also in an abusive marriage, Not by my ex. but by his children, and my ex allowed it. So in a sense he abused me too. He wanted me around so that I would cook and clean after them. I thought my husband loved me, but I saw it was not so. He only wanted a maid and the financial benefits he got from me. There was hardly no sex, so I can say I did not marry for sex. I understand and believe that wives have to submit to their husbands, but if there is nothing to submit to, what are we to do? I asked my pastor for counseling for both of us after I moved out, to see if the marriage could be saved. My ex never called. The pastor did not respond back to me either, after 8 months I applied for divorce, for abandonment. It has been 2 yrs. now, Am I wrong for having done this? Please respond.
Left by Eve on Mar 10, 2010 12:51 PM

# RE: Fighting for Your Marriage

My husband claims to be a Mason. He carries a bible with him in his truck. He treats me and kids like crap. Everyone outside the home gets more attention and time than we do. I have stood by his side every step of the way. He has no respect for me at all. He threatens divorce if I don't take orders from him. He helps other women take care of their kids when our kids need clothes and shoes. He helps other women pay their bills when we have no heat or hot water...for over a year now. I have to beg for money, yet this woman at work can borrow money with no problem. He would't even give me money to see my sister before she died. The same week, this woman at work needed money and he gave it to her. I am left with no money or gas, if he leaves me a car at all. Everyone outside our house thinks he is such a nice guy. This kills me. No matter how you put it, this is not love. He refuses to go to church with us. He refuses counseling. He lies about everything. Am I supposed to respect this?
Left by gcarter on Mar 18, 2010 12:15 PM