No matter who is responsible for whatever transpired in your marriage, God wants to work in your heart. When people ask exactly how to reconcile with their spouse, we explain that it’s much more about the heart than the how.
God wants to make a change in your heart. All conflicted couples experience traumatic triggers—unpleasant memories that unexpectedly surface and suck the life out of their relationship. Appropriately handling these traumatic triggers is one of the most effective ways God will accomplish this. Let God help you foster a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness, especially if your spouse has committed offenses that continue to threaten faith’s forward motion.
There are ten heart attitudes that will help you build sturdy bridges of forgiveness and faith and let go of the past. Cultivating these attitudes will lead you to freedom. They will also serve as the support structure for the new bridges of faith you’ll build together. Each attitude is of equal importance.
Your spouse is precious to God. Treat his or her feelings and fears with respect and dignity, even if you don’t understand them.
- Be Prayerful. Spend as much time as possible in prayer regarding the traumatic triggers in your marriage. Conflict often arises from these experiences when you point the finger at your spouse’s faults or use things from the past again him or her. Instead, direct your hands and heart to God in prayer. If necessary, find a confidential prayer partner who will support you.
- Be Mindful. Fostering and maintaining a healthy marriage require a conscious choice to cultivate a mindset of loyalty and devotion amid turbulent waters. When a relationship isn’t satisfying, it’s tempting to seek pleasure elsewhere. Make a conscious decision to remain faithful to God and your spouse in all areas of your life. Spend your time wisely by coping with difficulties in biblical ways.
- Be Grateful. Praising and worshiping God in the mist of your pain refocuses your attention on him and ushers true healing into your heart and mind. Go out of your way to extend gratitude to your spouse. Instead of focusing on your frustration, engage in a labor of love and service for your mate.
- Be Approachable. Let down your defenses. Encourage your spouse to come to you when a traumatic trigger gets activated. Be open to hearing your spouse’s opinions and feelings. Validate the pain and emotion he or she is experiencing by listening and asking clarifying questions. Listen more, talk less. Welcome the expression of your mate’s feelings, as difficult as it may be to hear them. Be aware of your body language at all times. Suspend judgment. Extend mercy.
- Be Resourceful. If necessary, know when and where to get extra help to deal with past offenses. Utilize the wisdom and cousin of other Christians, mentors, pastors, counselors, support providers, and healthcare professionals. Seek advice and mentoring from a couple who has also overcome obstacles.
- Be Humble. Humility is a necessary prerequisite for extending and receiving forgiveness. It indicates that you have an accurate view of who God is, who you are, and who you are becoming Humility requires complete honesty. It’s never easy to admit your mistakes or secrets, but humility and honesty stimulate mercy. Dancing around the subject because of pride or dishonesty may save face, but it will hinder true healing.
- Be Careful. Avoid making assumptions or judgments about your spouse’s motives, attitudes, or behaviors. Ask God to reveal any way you are setting up roadblocks or harboring unforgiveness. Choose appropriate times to discuss traumatic triggers (not in the heat of the moment, late at night, or when others are present). Your spouse is precious to God. Treat his or her feelings and fears with respect and dignity, even if you don’t understand them.
- Be Practical. Make the most of every opportunity to practice, pursue, and seek forgiveness. Ask God for practical Scripture passages to help you overcome each traumatic trigger. Write the passages into prayers. When you’re hurt, discouraged, or frustrated, get those Scripture passages out and read them aloud to God. Spend time writing down your feelings and fears in a journal.
- Be Respectful. Respect and honor the process and timing God is using in your marriage, even though it feels uncomfortable. Every relationship is different and so is every traumatic trigger. The way God heals one issue or relationship may differ from the way he heals another. God is both creative and logical. Respect his sovereignty in every situation. Be flexible, open to change, and willing to try new things, even if they seem outside your comfort zone. God can do amazing things with a heart that is willing, submitted, forgiving, and obedient.
- Be Hopeful. No matter how much murky water has passed under the bridge in your marriage, God can cleanse and heal you. When you put your hope in him, he will always provide a way to build a bridge of forgiveness so that, in faith, you can cross over to the other side. He is a God of second chances.
Excerpted with permission from Marriage On the Mend by Clint and Penny Bragg. Copyright Clint and Penny Bragg, Kregel Publications, 2015. www.kregel.com