Thursday, November 5, 2009

Keys to Healing A Marriage, Part One

Healing a hurting or broken marriage is not as hard as we may think...or as easy! Although a million, million words have been written on this topic, there is no doubt that a million more will be. In what follows, I humbly offer a few words of my own on a subject that really matters. They come from my experience as a pastoral counselor, pastor and my own 33 years of married life with Robin.

KEY #1: No Change, No Healing

"When an irresistible force such as you
Meets an old immovable object like me
You can bet just as sure as you live
Somethin's gotta give
Somethin's gotta give
Somethin's gotta give"

Johnny Mercer's classic lyrics describe a law of both physics and human relationships: "somethin's gotta give". When a marriage is hurting or in trouble, "same old same old" is no longer an option. Even so, a true appetite for change is not always present in those situations -- and marriages -- that are desperate for change. Sometimes the first response to marital crisis is to fall back into a deeper commitment to the familiar patterns, attitudes and behaviors that have fed the breakdown because they are already an ingrained part of our routine and identity. "Don't ask me to change", we assert. "I am what I am".

Dissect that statement a little further, and it reveals itself to be more of a values statement than an actual fact. In effect, we are saying: "I value staying with what works for me more than I value learning what works for us". The fact is, we learn how to radically change "who we are" all the time -- if we believe the change is worth the trouble to do so. When the economy shifts, we may immerse ourselves into totally new careers. When children come, we immerse ourselves in learning how to parent. When our health is threatened, we may radically change our diet, our exercise routine and, possibly, our entire lifestyle in order to avoid issues that will destroy our health or our functioning. That's why, when a marriage is in need of healing, change is the best friend we need to invite over to stay, not an enemy we need to keep locked outside.

If we value our marriage then we need do whatever it takes to heal it, build it up and renew its vitality. This means change -- often HUGE change. It can sometimes takes a gargantuan effort to UNlearn some things and LEARN others. The learning curve can feel daunting, indeed. Perhaps this is why so many marital partners seem to look for the minimum tweak to stop the squeek (in their marriage) instead of embracing the opportunity to experience transformative change. In sports lingo they refer to this as "playing not-to-lose" rather than "playing to win".

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