by Dave Willis
The Bible famously says “Love never fails,” (1 Corinthians 13:8), BUT the problem is that the people we love DO fail (and so do we).
No marriage is perfect, because no person is perfect. If you’ve been married longer than a few days, I’m confident that your spouse has done something to hurt your feelings (and you’ve hurt his/her feelings too). Sometimes, these hurts can be small and seemingly insignificant; but sometimes, the wound can be devastating and long-lasting. When you’ve been hurt, the decisions you make next have the potential to either promote healing OR to make things worse.
I was listening to a podcast recently and a researcher being interviewed shared a random fact that stuck with me, because I believe it has some huge implications for marriage. He said that when a person is freezing to death with hypothermia, the brain will often misread the signals the body is sending and the freezing person will actually feel extremely hot. They’ll pull their clothes off (doing the exact opposite of what they need to do to survive) and they’ll often die completely naked in the snow.
You might be wondering why in the world I’m sharing this in a blog about marriage, but there’s a point. When we’re in a crisis (physically, emotionally, or relationally), our feelings will often lie to us. If we follow only our feelings in times of crisis in marriage, we might do things to make matters worse and lead to divorce instead of healing. Instead of trusting your fickle feelings in defining moments, I’m encouraging you to follow a proven path towards hope and healing.
As a quick disclaimer, these action steps listed are meant for married couples living in the same house where there is not physical abuse happening. If you are being physically abused, you need to get help right away. If you feel physically threatened by your spouse in any way, please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline (which is confidential and free) by clicking HERE.
When your spouse disappoints you, hurts your feelings or breaks your trust (or when YOU disappoint your spouse), please do the following ELEVEN things (in no particular order) . . .
1. Instead of focusing only on what he/she did WRONG, remember all the things he/she has done RIGHT over the years.
This might sound like a cliche, but it’s practical and powerful. Whatever we choose to focus on starts seeming bigger than everything else. When you only focus on the offense, that is ALL you’ll see. That’s all you’ll think about and you’t be able to look at your spouse without instantly thinking of what he/she did to hurt you. Instead, remind yourself of all the good moments. Remind yourself of all the love and laughter over the years. It will help you keep the pain you’re feeling in proper context and not give it too much control over you.
#2 might be the hardest part of the process, but it also may be the MOST important…
2. Choose to FORGIVE. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re instantly giving your full trust, but it’s the first step in making trust possible again.
Forgiveness and trust and two different things. We give forgiveness instantly because grace can never be earned, but we give trust slowly, because trust can only be earned. Forgiveness simply means choosing to pursue healing instead of revenge when you’ve been hurt. It means refusing to allow bitterness to take root in your heart. Forgiveness helps YOU even more than it helps the person you’re forgiving.
#3 seems like a natural reaction, but it’s the fastest way to make things even WORSE…
3. Refuse to VENT to your spouse or about your spouse to others. You might be justified in being angry, but that anger won’t serve you well if you use it to vent. The Bible says “A fool gives full vent to his/her anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11). When you keep venting anger, it doesn’t make you calmer. Research has show that it will actually make you angrier for a longer period of time. When you vent to friends or online about your spouse, it will cause a breakdown in trust in your marriage that may prove to be impossible to rebuild. Venting gives you the temporary feeling of control over the situation that hurt you, but in the end, it will only hurt you more.
#4 is one we try to skip, but we need to do it…
4. Take some time to GRIEVE and process your pain and emotions. When you’ve been hurt, don’t pretend that you’re not in pain. Embrace the pain and take some time to grieve. Depending on the level of the offense, this might be a very short process or a long one. There’s no set timeline. Grieving doesn’t mean you go around crying all day, but it’s okay to cry. Try to limit distractions during this period. Go to a quiet place as often as you can to pray, process your thoughts, reflect, and start moving forward.
#5 is vital…
5. Surround yourself with some supportive an encouraging FRIENDS. They don’t need to know every detail of what you’re going through, but they need to know that you need their encouragement, prayers and support.
The right friends will speed up the healing process, but the WRONG FRIENDS will put you on the fast track to divorce. As you carefully choose your support network right now, make sure you’re choosing friends who love you, love your spouse, love God and believe in the sacredness of marriage. Any friends missing any part of that equation are likely to give unwise advice.
For tips #6-11, check out Part 2 of this post.
Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.