People cannot change.
Let’s use the example of a spouse getting caught in an affair. After you’ve threatened to divorce him, he straightens up and promises to cut all ties with the other woman.
The false belief that “people cannot change” is expressed in two ways: spouse-focused and self-focused.
Spouse-focused – Your first reaction will be to distrust your spouse. If he’s lied to you hundreds of times before, and if he’s broken the marriage vows equally as many times, then you’ll be tempted to think, How can I ever trust him again? Your trust has been broken in critical and numerous ways, so you’ll be skeptical, even cynical about his efforts to change.
Self-focused – You’ll be tempted to question yourself. You’ll wonder if there’s something you did or didn’t do to contribute to your spouse’s wandering ways. You’ll question whether you can ever really win your spouse’s love back, because you’ve come to believe there’s something fundamentally deficient in you as a spouse.
Both of these are normal reactions given the circumstances, but they must be understood fully and challenged with the truth of your situation, if you hope to recover.
Spouse – You’re right to wonder if your spouse can be trustworthy going forward. You didn’t lose trust in your spouse overnight, so it’s going to take hundreds, even thousands of positive, truthful interactions with your spouse to regain trust in him.
But even though this will be a difficult road, it is not an impossible one!
If your spouse is committed to going to counseling and working on the marriage as well as the trust issues over a prolonged time, then there is hope. Healing will come in time, but not without proper handling of the destructive elements in the marriage that only a good counselor can walk you and your spouse through. FYI – a helpful resource for navigating the rebuilding of trust is Beyond Boundaries.
Self - It’s normal to question yourself but this too can become a problem. When you’ve let your questions about yourself turn into shame or a sense of hopelessness, then you’re headed in the wrong direction.
But if you take an honest look at yourself and deal proactively with the areas where you’re wounded, sinful and dysfunctional, then you’re taking the right path. When we humbly admit and deal with our failures, God can and will take the broken pieces of our marriages and redeem the hurt. Be sure to seek a counselor and godly accountability to walk with you through this painful process.
Let me say one more thing here, don’t in any way hear me say that it’s your fault that your spouse committed adultery or any other abusive action. You are responsible for yourself and your choices, just as your spouse is responsible for himself. No one can “make” any one choose to sin.
What stories of redemption in marriage have you experienced or witnessed?
What would your prayer be for someone who’s facing this desperate situation?
Join me next Monday when I’ll be discussing the third myth – I have only two options, resigning myself to a life of misery or getting out of the marriage.
Photo by Lexieortiz!!