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The Relationship Café

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Jack and Barbara were happily married—once upon a time. However, their seven year marriage spiraled inexorably downward as conflicts tore them apart. They chipped away at one another about finances, discipline of their three children and frequency of intimacy. She often used biting words when angry, and he slammed doors and spun out of the driveway. Finally, Jack decided to end their turmoil by moving out. 

 I counseled Jack as he vacillated between signing divorce papers and thoughts of reconciliation. I watched as he struggled to move forward with his life. His left brain methodically plotted out the course of his life, while his right, and more emotional side, lost footing and settled into an enduring sadness. Letting go of his marriage was not as easy as signing the rental agreement on an apartment across town. 

 Talking to Jack, it became clear that he was not finished with his marriage. He left angry and depleted from years of “unfair fighting.” Although tired of hours of blaming and accusations, he shared, “There was a lot more to our marriage than those times of conflict. I miss her smile, her sense of humor, her tenderness. I miss the way she could make up our home. You ought to see my apartment now. It looks like a train wreck. The macaroni and cheese was no special treat for dinner last night either.” 

Jack agonized over the loss of his marriage, wondering if it might be possible to span the incredible gap between he and his wife. We talked about what it would take to bring them back together—not to endure more years of heartache, but to recreate and renew their relationship. We decided to send Barbara a card inviting the possibility of talking. We agreed upon a purpose; opening dialogue with no pressure for reunification. He had changed and his heart was ready to talk again. He sent the card. 

Barbara received the card, immediately recognizing his handwriting. She laid the card on the table and prepared a cup of tea. She was surprised at the flutter she felt as she looked at the envelope. She felt an odd mix and annoyance and excitement. Would this be a welcoming note, she wondered, or possibly another one of Jack’s scoldings for the way she had handled some situation with the children? She slowly opened the note. The card had a picture of autumn leaves in golds and browns with the words, “A Season of Hope.” Inside, Jack had written a note. 

“Barbara. Time seems to have tamed a lot of emotions. I am surprised at how I feel compared to how I felt three months ago. I am not sure what I want to say, but would like to begin talking with you again. My heart is softer. I can see where I was wrong, and have no need to blame or attack you. I wonder if you feel the same. I wonder if you have second thoughts about our marriage. Would you like to talk? I will call you in a few days to see if you want to meet for a cup of coffee. A latte can cure a lot of ills. Love, Jack.”

 Today Jack and Barbara are talking about reconciliation. They’ve participated in painful, but healing therapy with me. With them, and perhaps with you, it requires careful consideration. Solomon says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider.” (Eccl. 7:14) These are certainly times requiring careful consideration. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Are you overreacting to times of trouble? It is tempting, when times are bad, to believe that everything is bad. When emotions are high, things get blown out of perspective. Battle lines are drawn and enemies are made. One must be careful to keep things in perspective. Love blossomed powerfully once and can again;
  •  Have you considered your part in the problem? While it may be satisfying to blame everything on your mate, playing the victim, this is usually a very simplistic appraisal of the issues. What do you bring to the situation? What are you really like to live with?
  •  Have you sought out expert advice on your problem? This does not mean talking to friends who are likely to side with you and take up an offense against your mate. It means finding an objective listening ear who will evaluate the full extent of the problem, point out troubling patterns of interaction and ways to handle conflict effectively;
  •  Have you been careful to fully forgive past problems? Assuming there has been a change in behavior, and a repentant heart, you may need additional work to let go of grudges and anger, remembering forgiveness is a process, not an event;
  • Have you both made amends for past wounds? Making a sincere apology is certainly a beginning, but it may take much more than that. Deep wounds do not heal quickly and often require special counseling assistance;
  • Have you remembered that there are no perfect relationships? As you considered throwing out the old in hopes of something new, please remember that the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but it still needs to be mowed. There will be problems in every relationship and, as the Apostle James says, these problems can be a catalyst bringing us closer to the person Christ wants us to be. (James 1:1-2)

The prospect of reconciliation with someone who has hurt you can be daunting. Perhaps you have moved into a place of calm and safety after experiencing a stormy marriage, and like a startled turtle, are reluctant to poke your nose out again. But, is it possible that with a little time, perspective and God’s grace, reconciliation could happen?

Let me know if you’ve experienced reconciliation in a broken marriage. What helped? What hurt? We want to know.  

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2007 5:07 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

We are on year two of reconciliation/restoration of our marriage. God is able. We are rebuilding after years of lies; porn addiction; infidelity and so on. We are indeed new creatures with Jesus Christ. Don't give up hope, with God, ALL things are possible.
Left by winsomsouls on Nov 07, 2007 12:04 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

My husband is in the process - thinking of filing a divorce. He couldn't stand me anymore with my silent treatment. I have been abused, physically, emotionally and mentally. But because my love for him was so deep, I am willing to work it out with him as long as he also do his part working our marriage. My husband has been habitually lying even to our pastor about his infidelity, his sexual addiction. After 13 years we have been together I still don't know how much he was earning. But I am still waiting for God to touch him. But how long will God let me wait for the time I will say I give up. It's uncertain that my husband was not willing to work on our marriage, by leaving his affair and opening his door to me. Is it worth saving this marriage?
Left by roseinheaven on Nov 18, 2007 6:00 AM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

My husband an I are in the process of a separation. We had a first anniversary this month. I spent it at the laundromat. I have moved out and am not sure if I want to move back in. I feel like I am treated as just the maid, housekeeper, nanny etc. I am not treated as the wife. I am not included in the decision making. I have 2 step children that are not mine, they belong to my husband, and I have a hard time making them do chores around the house. They constantly fight with each other just to get out of doing the chores. These children do not know at all how to do anything. Is it worth saving this marriage? submitted by: hoping and trusting in God.
Left by emlujan on Nov 19, 2007 1:26 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Several have asked the question, "Is this marriage worth saving?" My answer is, yes, a marriage is worth saving, but there must be changes to make it a spiritually and emotionally healthy marriage. God does not want us to be abused, mistreated or neglected. We are His prized children, and He grieves when we grieve. While we must pray for our spouses, and earnestly pray for change, we must also take action by setting boundaries and limits within our marriages. We cannot simply sit back and wait for our mates to make critical changes--we must explore how we can assist in bringing about change, and start the change process with ourselves.
What are some healthy boundaries we can legitimately set within our marriages? Share your thoughts on this matter.
Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Nov 19, 2007 11:30 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Without wanting to sound too religious, I believe in the dealing and healing power of God. Yes if our Lord Jesus is given the centre stage in our lives I guess this marriage will be saved. Remember as His Children our body is His temple in which He dwells. When we snarl, cuss and behave violently with one another its a strange form of worship that is offered. If we will realise His omni-presence then maybe we will deal differently with each other. Be praying for you as mine is also on the rocks.
Left by yourown on Nov 20, 2007 5:52 AM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Dear roseinheaven and emlujan,
Yes, every marriage is worth saving!

Here are some resources from CBN that I hope will help:Also, if you need someone to pray with, you can contact CBN either online at http://www.cbn.com/contact/prayer-form.aspx?topic=Family or the 24-hour Prayer line at 1-800-759-0700.

Praying for you.
Left by JayEsGee on Nov 20, 2007 11:51 AM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Okay. Let's get very practical here. First, we must all be "prayed up," so that our heart is in the right place and so that God can work in our lives. With an attitude of humility (as was the heart of Christ) we then practice healthy communication principles. Marriages on the rocks got there because of discernible reasons--and as such, they don't have to remain on the rocks. Again, we can't control others, but we can practice healthy communication ourselves, healthy boundaries, and esteeming our mate. I love Ephesians 4: 49. Read it and let me know what you think. What if we practiced that in our marriage everyday--nothing but Ephesians 4: 29 living.
What do you think?
Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Nov 20, 2007 4:08 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I have recently found out that my husband has been looking at pornography the whole 17 years of our married life and naturally looking and admiring other women. We are Christians and he said he has repented and has been supernaturally healed. How can I ever feel comfortable with this? I do not compare to what he was desiring. How can I feel that I am as attractive to him ever? I know beauty comes from within but with men the attraction is from the outside first. Desperately need answers!!!
Left by jkanbirch on Jan 11, 2008 10:24 AM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I am appalled at the neglect of the church to confront the issue of emotional abuse in christian marraiges. The church needs to WAKE UP!!!Ck. out the online article "The Silent Killer of Christian Marraiages"No wonder the secular & church divorce rate is the same. The silent treatment seems to be the favorite, which,experts say is 2nd only to hitting. Bullying of all sorts is taking place thruout the church. Most likely it effects Pastors,Worship leaders,SS teachers,youth pastors,etc. and no one will address it. I have written to multiple marriage ministries about these problems in my home and they have not even sent any kind of response. Well, I'm no longer willing to play the codependency,move the boundry game and he is backing off. Too bad I listened to the christians before, and lost 6 yrs of my and my kids time to dealing with emotional abuse.It high time the church got some back bone on this.
Left by deboraho on Jan 24, 2008 12:19 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I have a particular interest in emotional abuse and "crazymaking" in marriage. I once offered to give a free presentation on the topic to over three hundred churches in my area--one response. I'm not sure why there is such a silence, but I agree with you that we don't want to talk about this, and many other critical problems.
Do you think the church should offer workshops/ Sunday School classes on these and other "relationship" problems? How can the church respond to these issues? Ideas?
Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Jan 26, 2008 12:22 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

If you shared a fear of abandonment (born of a childhood issue - mother leaving) to your spouse and you described exactly what your fear was and how your spouse could manage that/make you feel secure....if they willingly failed to do that, repetitively, would you consider that neglect? I feel that it is. My spouse promised he wouldn't do that. He broke the promise. I promised him early-on that the consequences of his failure to give me this need would be the demise of our marriage. He didn't keep his promise but I am inclined to keep mine. I am researching divorce. I don't have the coping skills to handle his neglect/lack of concern and I know that it is becoming dangerous to me. I've told him that. But, he still makes only weak efforts to communicate.
Left by abandoned on Jan 27, 2008 11:58 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

There is a profound problem occuring in many marriages, where there is a lack of attunement toward one another--in other words, where we don't really listen to one another's pain. We don't set our agenda aside long enough to fully validate our mate.
Your husband is certainly disappointing you, however, is it quite likely that he doesn't fully grasp the severity of the issue. Does he know how to speak your emotional language? He may not know how to tune in to your needs. That doesn't let him off the hook.

What are some ways you (women) have found effective in getting your husband to fully listen to, appreciate, and respond to your emotional needs? What hasn't worked?

Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Jan 28, 2008 2:48 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

to dr. hawkins re:emotional abuse. i think the church should beging in the pulpit b/c all this tip-toeing around just is not working and abusers are being excused to continue. the church needs an in-your-face (so to speak) approach. many excellent marriage ministries exist but by looking at the divorce rate in the church it is plain that this is not having the broad benefit it should be having(nothing against the MM)most that practice this behavior will not admit it but making the proof of the fruit obvious forces them out of hiding. this info. is really easy to find, just Google "Emotional Abuse". some tactics include:withholding,bullying,stonewalling,passive-aggressive;belittling,berating, just to name a few. this is an AFRONT to God's covenant of marriage. this behavior needs and assertive and concentrated attack, otherwise it won't go away. MANY marriages seem to resemble Islamic domination. This CANNOT be God's design.
Left by deboraho on Jan 28, 2008 4:08 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Emotional abuse. I agree with the last blog. We are really afraid of this topic. We all feel so much pressure to be perfect--to act a part. It is so tempting to put on an act in church, and with our friends, when behind the scenes--in our marriages and with our children-- we use aggressive, stonewalling and belittling tactics. How can we call this behavior out? What are some ideas you have to bring our behavior out of hiding and into the healing body of Christ? How can we hold one another accountable for behavior which exemplifies the fruits of the Spirit? (I have many who admit human weaknesses to me, but fear sharing them to their church friends and pastors!!)
I'd love to hear your ideas.
Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Feb 05, 2008 12:17 AM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I am new to this and I know I have hurt my wife in ways I cant even immagine. She forgqave me and our marriage became solid until I did it again, the strange part is I didnt have sex but the intimate thoughts were there. So I believe the marriage can servive one but I dont know about twice.
I need god in my life.
Left by Scott on Oct 31, 2008 10:33 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I am at my wits end with my marriage. It is my second. We are both Christians. My first ended in divorce due to my backslidden husbands adultery. My husband now of 18 years has been emotionally abusive almost from day one. Yet he thinks all is well. Neglect is the big thing now. He is staying with his father due to his fathers poor health. I think its an excuse to run away from responsibility. Our son is 16. They have very little to do with eachother. My husband admits he is a terrible father. All we do is argue. I care about him but I dont love him as a wife should. Dont think I ever have truthfully. I feel sorry for him. We both deserve better. He says he loves me with all his heart, but I just dont see it. I am depressed. We have seen 5 or 6 counselors. The last was a professional whom my husband admitted to me that he didnt like and only went to please me and "play the game". I feel so hopeless. I know envy is wrong, but I envy couples who love eachother. What do I do?
Left by Daab90 on Jan 07, 2009 5:30 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I too am in a emotionally abusive marriage and he has hit me once,which has put us into counseling. I believe he too is playing "the game" so Im the "crazy" one.I amitt that I bring baggage into this marriage.I have noticed lately that I have alot of anger towards him and I dont know if I love him any more.He has a X wife that seems to be ripping us apart.He'll get calls/texts only at work from her,then erase them.She'll show up at his work whenever.They have a relationship that is like they are still married.Making plans,comforting each other when theres a bad day or best yet when she finds something out about me,"gossips" it to him( even though he knows about it) and then she'll get really angry with him if she knows that he told me.He doesnt have it in him to tell her to back off cuz he doesnt want her to get mad at him.They have a handicap daughter so he still has to talk to her but it never stays "with the kids" I too am at my wits end and we've been married only 15 months!help!
Left by jude on Mar 29, 2009 9:12 PM

# RE: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I picked this display name because I know that when things look bleak and hopeless, that if you praise the Lord (read some praise Psalms out loud, like Psalm 148, or put on some good praise music that exalts the Lord) things change for the better. God inhabits praise so don't ask the Lord to fix your marriage until you've done a little praising first! (even if you don't feel like it-that's when it's called "a sacrifice of praise".If praise isn't part of your day, then change your day!

I've also learned that things get better when I pray for someone else(just anyone)in the world who's also having problems like I'm having.

Also, go to the Lord and ask Him to give you the love you're needing. Ask Him to comfort your heart and give you the grace to carry on.
Left by praizr on Oct 20, 2009 6:02 PM