Thursday, May 24, 2012

What we have learned

Thank you to all of you who have taken time to read through our story of a marriage broken by an affair and redeemed by God's hand (parts one, two, and three). Indeed, we are opening ourselves up in a significant way. Through the course of our separation and struggles afterward, though, I said many times that I would not let our experience go in vain. I felt like it would be all useless if I didn't allow God to use it to help those beyond myself and my husband. I would never do anything without Scott's okay, and we both had a significant amount of healing to do before we were ready to talk about it on this level.

Scott and I don't claim to be professionals in any area (except for maybe the study of each other and our children), but there are some valuable things that we have learned through our experience. I would like to share some of those things with you. Hopefully they can be of some help to someone.

First, it is never too late to work on your relationship with your spouse. I became determined that I was going to treat Scott with the respect and honor that God called me to as his wife (the Bible says, in essence, "whether he deserves it or not") until a judge told me I wasn't married to him anymore, and even if it came to that I wouldn't have given up until I had a clear message from God telling me to. I have heard of several situations where a couple divorced and even then God restored their marriage and brought them back together. Once we reconciled, Scott became determined that he was going to love me like God called him to love me, even if I wasn't acting lovable. If you are in a place in your marriage where it is just too hard, you and your spouse have "grown apart", or if you just don't feel the love that you used to feel, God can change that! The first thing you need to do is trust that He can and will, and go to Him in prayer. Pray fervently, never-ending if need be, and have faith that He is hearing you and wants to bless your marriage. He will even give you the desire to work on your marriage if you don't have it. It will take time. You and your spouse didn't become unhappy in your marriage overnight, and it won't be an overnight fix. If you have been praying and aren't seeing any changes, that just means you need to keep on praying and waiting on God to move. The second thing you need to do is focus on yourself. I don't mean focus on yourself and what you need from your spouse, but focus on how you have been contributing to the hurt and pain in your marriage and work to change that. Often times the hardest thing we can do is take an honest look at ourselves and ask God to show us where He wants to grow and change us. Those times bring great sacrifice of our own will, but they also bring great rewards.

Second, prior to our separation we were always proud to say that we were a couple that never fought. We talked all of the time, even through some of our marriage ceremony, but when it came down to it we never talked about conflict. We never argued, we never resolved hurts and disagreements, and this was ultimately a big predicting factor of our separation. I read a statistic once that said one of the biggest predictors of divorce is the avoidance of addressing conflict. I wrote a post on dealing with conflict in marriage a while back, and if you and your spouse have a hard time working through conflict, I would encourage you to read it.

Third, Scott and I have both learned a lot about how to actually treat each other. We read the book Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and it really opened our eyes. It showed us how we had been literally sabotaging and destroying our relationship because we were going about loving each other all wrong. In the Bible, God specifically tells men to love their wives, and He tells wives to respect their husbands. As I have said many times before, the only thing I can control is myself, same as the only thing you can control is yourself, so I mainly have advice for wives. A few weeks ago I also wrote a post on how to speak his language (on respect). Check it out to see some suggestions on how to show your husband respect. God is good and His laws work. If you take the initiative, regardless of whether or not you feel like it, to show your husband respect, unless he is a psychopath or an abuser (both of which are seriously grounds for separation and divorce, do not stay in a situation in which you are in danger) he will respond by showing you love.

Finally, I would encourage anyone who is married, whether you are having problems or not, to periodically see a marriage counselor. There is always a stigma attached to going to a counselor for any reason, but in the whole scheme of things, if the embarrassment you feel about going to a marriage counselor to work on issues in your marriage is greater than the need you feel to do the necessary work to heal your marriage, your priorities may be a little off. Find the time. Take the initiative. A good, Christian marriage counselor can do wonders for you personally and for your marriage. If you are in my area and are interested, I will be more than happy to give you the name and phone number of the marriage counselor that Scott and I went to. If your spouse refuses to go, pray for God to change his or her heart, and begin going yourself.

These are all some very important and effective changes and steps that we took in our relationship, and God has blessed it many times over. I pray that they would bring some healing to your relationship as well :)

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