Updated: Nov 27, 2018
Once wounded we tend to be most guarded with an effort to raise walls of defenses. We feel abandoned, betrayed and we question our worthiness. Why were we not enough to hold our spouse's interest and commitment? With this thought-we often struggle to push past the pain and to give our all as we think we can control the other person in our relationship. Often however, this action meets with further rejection as the other person is without commitment and only wishes to fulfill their own needs from outside sources. While this is the plight of some; others find the first question most difficult to swallow after they have done an extensive inventory, and therefore come to a conclusion that this failure has to belong to the cheater. They then reassess the person to whom they trusted. Were there red flags along the way that were missed or ignored? Who is this person who I married?
As further inspection, we find first small increments of issues in what, how, and why this person functions. We pick him or her apart-limb by limb, leaving no part of them un-turned as we find fault and then ridicule. Either of these defenses continue pain and continues destruction to the relationship. One is full of self blame and the other is full of blame of the other. Even if the person who cheated; chose to stop and to try to unite the marriage-the wounded one often finds it almost impossible to let down his or her guard while letting go of the assault. In many cases, one attempts to justify their own adultery against the one who wounded them as pay back. In these and other cases; neither find a resolve that takes away the pain. Either they grow a hard exterior as they co-exist and tolerate the other, or they choose to leave-or are left by their spouses.
As a clinician who is grounded in scripture and who has learned science, then I seek wisdom in the word while utilizing the scientific strategies which seem to be in sink with the scriptures as I attempt to reach hurting couples. What better scriptures to go to for wisdom than those that pertain to Christ and His church (His bride); which are often used as we speak of the marital relationship and responsibilities that both groom and bride have? 1 John 4:12 speaks of Agape love; the highest level of love which is God's love. This love is not possible without God's gift of empowerment and freedom which is embedded within. It is a love of light, grace, and complete commitment. We also can read 1 John 1: 3-7, Matt. 20: 20-28, John 13: 34-35 and will quickly see that this love is a serving love that looks not as to what we want for ourselves but seeks to provide for our loved ones. This construct is most different than what our culture holds as important today and therefore would be challenging. In Col. 12: 12-14, we are given several traits of love which includes, kindness, compassion, and other acts of love and service for each other, as well as; Romans 12:10. As we turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:13 we find that we are to live in peace and harmony with each other. Luke 10:25-28 we are given a command to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, and then this is followed by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Therefore let us create a lists of some common aspects of what love truly looks like.
It is a love that unites all parties in the relationship. It is a love with a common commitment which will include common goals, common lifestyles, and common sacrifice of money, pleasures, and time. It is a common love that seeks the greater good for each other and is demonstrated in sacrifice and the will to unite. It is attractive with opportunities to share, to nurture, and to invite each other to grow. It focuses centrally upon Jesus; to serve Him, and to put Him first, our spouse second, and then our children third-prior to any other person or thing. It seeks to fulfill the needs of our loved ones. Love also shelters and cares for our loved ones. It genuinely cares and freely serves the other with respect. And, it will receive love and appreciation, along with the support from others to whom we give our love and appreciation, the support, and our love to.
Love does not worry about comparisons or resentment.
How do we do this? How doe we love like God loves us? The scripture speaks of three needed ingredients that must be present. 1) We must selflessly accept each other in the same manner that Jesus accepted each of us; embracing our diversity yet seeking oneness. 2) We will need to love each other even when the other is not lovable and work to not personalize the other's wrongful behavior. Love does implement needed boundaries that safeguard our selves and each other. 3) We are to care for those hurting but not enable them in the continuance of their faulty beliefs or actions if these are evidenced with facts.
As clinicians work with couples, marriages, and relationships; then we seek to help our clients to cease holding to their past hurt and anger; while also discouraging them from borrowing anxiety from their future (possible but improbable outcomes). It is important to help them to identify thought distortions and the defense mechanisms in order to cease personalizing or blaming the hurt on self or others. Then, we seek to find meaning and purpose while helping our clients to accept our human selves. And, when our clients are struggling to find peace, then we will need to visit the issue of forgiveness. Without forgiveness then clients continue their anger and their bitterness which will hinder their peace and healing.
This is a struggle for those who do not own a higher power to whom they can seek empowerment from. Without any faith of any higher power then one would only has self to look to for the empowerment needed. This is a difficult task as one is often broken and filled with hate or self condemnation. Others do claim a higher power. Some claim gods who are gods of hate while other gods are gods that seek oneness. These gods tend to be self proclaimed from a private experience, witnessed by none. Some do not know if it is a god or if it some alien that may actually be in charge. God (Jehovah) is in a class all of His own. His plan was foretold for centuries to provide His son to atone for our sins. He is a God who sacrificed His Son, for His people due to Agape love. It therefore is paramount to encourage the hurting to seek the only type of love that can empower them to forgive themselves and others as He forgave all of us who believes and obey Him. Regardless of which entity that one professes to be his or hers, science will attest to the fact that the inclusion of such spiritual beliefs aids clients to their ability to feel empowered. With this empowerment and resolve then the anger and the hurt releases.
Those who do not have this belief and hope of a higher power often fall back into their patterns of vengeance or self harm; especially if they are not willing to work through and/or to eradicate their own thought distortions and defenses. They would need to take charge of what they can control, and also let go of what they cannot control. They would only have their own strength and skill base-with the clinician's guidance in order to find peace.
When clients want to change their mates, spouses, or partners and take no responsibility for their own thoughts or behaviors, then they will find that their efforts are in vain since no one can control another; or should control the other. In addition, we each must be responsible for our choices and our thoughts. Also, we must understand that two people who are seeking each-their own needs-cannot be one; since there is no unity in selfish quests. As long as this pattern exists then the hurt and the anger will remain.
Those who have a belief that is spiritual but who struggle with fear to trust in their faith; are often waffling back and forth as they attempt to place issues in the control of their god-yet fearing that their loved one will leave. That fear then leads to enabling behaviors that continue patterns that continue eroding the relationship. As the darkness ensues, then guilt and shame rise. The choice then is to blame the spouse, blame self, and/or to blame the god.
Counselors can only provide the tools and insight as to what is needed in order to help the couple-but the client will need to choose to use the tools, work the process, and to own their own role in a relationship. If a client chooses to ignore the tools or the work needed, then the client will not find empowerment or growth.
If the client insist that this is the partner's problem only-and that the client is not in need of any help-while complaining of their anger and pain-then the client will continue their anger and pain. The client is choosing not to address their anger or pain from a perspective of controlling their own filter and actions in regards to how others are treating them. Some do this as if they believe that any work on their end is condoning the wrongful behavior of the other. This however is not factual. At no time is wrongful behavior condoned. Boundaries are implemented with strong consequences should they become broken or violated. Marriage is a covenant with God between two people who are authorized to enter into this covenant. God has implemented boundaries that safeguard the heart, soul, mind, and integrity of this covenant, and God provides us the map to success.
Those who choose to work on their own issues to be who God wants them to be; and who prays for God to work in the heart of their loved one; while encouraging that loved on to remain faithful in their work towards their marriage can find empowerment. Although they cannot control how others act, they can fully find control of how they perceive and respond to this. They are also in control as to what boundaries that they will implement. They can release the relentless fear and obsession of checking upon their mate as God sees and knows all. They can release their resentment and their bitterness while standing true to oneself. This difference will indeed release the client from much of the burden of being the spy or the one who has to keep a record of what the spouse is or is not doing. This in itself is free-ing for the one hurt but also holds the partner accountable to God.
God is love. We who know Him, loves Him, for He is God. Those who love Him not does not know Him. Gods love is unconditional to us if we believe that He is the almighty and one God. Our love for Him also must be unconditional and based upon faith that He has us in His plan, whatever that is; and ultimately He is in control of all that we cannot control.
Counselors can help their clients to find this resolve when the client accepts their own strength and responsibility to change what they are able to change, the self. This does not guarantee that the spouse will also work their own issues and commit to the relationship, but a window of hope is given as patterns change. While they see our client's resolve then they are more likely to make changes that are needed in their own life.