Every marriage experiences mess-ups. It’s easy to get caught up in shame, blame, and misery. But taking the necessary steps after a mess-up has the potential to make your marriage stronger. What you’re working toward is really creating a new marriage.
How you may wish one “confession” would result in “forgiveness”, and you could go back to the way things were before you messed up! But do you really want that? The way things were before ended up causing both you and your spouse pain.
A more effective way is to see yourself as working to build a new marriage. See this not as an event, but as a change in lifestyle. If you’ve taken the steps we talked about last week, you’re ready to set yourself up for a different future.
This journey is not likely to be a straight line. And you cannot do this simply by trying harder. Here are some directions in which to focus your efforts as you cooperate with God in creating a new marriage – the marriage He desires you to have.
Live in the Light
Just as bacteria tend to multiply in a dark warm environment, sin and immaturity and brokenness seek darkness in which to hide. Light disinfects bacteria – and it disinfects shame!
Living in the light means you daily open your heart and life to the Holy Spirit’s inspection and ongoing work. You’ve determined that when He says something, you will follow. He has full access to change your heart. You need the Spirit to change you from the inside out.
And living in the light also means you don’t keep things hidden from your spouse or from others. This includes having a couple brothers or sisters who can help you with accountability, support, encouragement, prayer, etc. Professional hep may be needed. If you feel yourself wanting to hide, let that become a red flag that you need to connect with someone right away.
Choose Healthy Soul Food
Your old default methods of responding to your spouse or to stress don’t go away without intentionally replacing them with new methods. If you’ve examined the root of your mess-up and sought healing where necessary, now it’s time to intentionally build the new brain pathways you need for a new marriage.
That may involve learning new communication skills, developing new ways of handling feelings of anger, growing a lifestyle of sexual wholeness, etc.
Learn to feed yourself. Looking to your spouse as the source to fill you up will always result in dysfunction. You are learning to take responsibility for your own heart, mind, responses, actions, feelings, etc. You go to God as your primary Source, and to other godly places for the nourishment your soul needs such as uplifting media, healthy people, time in nature, etc.
Rebuilding trust with your spouse takes time.
If you’ve lashed out at him/her verbally, your spouse may continue to cringe until you repeatedly demonstrate a new way of responding when you feel irritated. If you’ve dismissed your spouse’s feelings or perspective, he/she may tend to keep things hidden from you until you create a lasting safer place for your spouse to be him/herself.
If you’ve betrayed your spouse’s trust sexually such as by using pornography or having an affair, rebuilding trust will take even longer. You will need to allow your spouse extraordinary access to your life in ways that may feel intrusive.
It’s likely to feel as though you are bending over backwards to prove yourself. But that’s what it takes to rebuild trust after it’s been broken.
Invite Your Spouse to Join You
Remember that you cannot change your spouse. Your spouse has caused you pain also; do the work of forgiveness to let that go. Your job is to do whatever is within your power to become trustworthy, and then invite your spouse to join you in a new relationship.
Whether husband or wife, see yourself as going first. You do the hard heart work necessary regardless of how your spouse is currently responding. As you become a safer and different person, your spouse will sense an invitation to join you. And perhaps you will be able to make that invitation specific.
Imagine yourself in your spouse’s position. Do whatever it takes to make him/her feel safe. And if appropriate, say something like, “Honey, I’m committed to doing whatever it takes so that our marriage can become better than it’s been before, as God wants it to be. I’d like us to work toward that together. Will you join me?”
Growing a new marriage will take both God’s grace and your intentional investment. This is the pathway to experience God’s amazing restoration. May you take that journey, and never give up.
Your Turn: Have you felt hopeless after messing up in your marriage? Which of these next steps is the next one you can invest in now? Leave a message below.
Tweetables: why not share this pose?
- If your marriage is broken you don’t need your old marriage back; focus on creating a new marriage, the kind of marriage God intended for you to have all along. Tweet that.
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